Dry dock on the move

A large section of dry dock taking up real estate on the Slack Point shoreline should be towed back out again by the end of this week.

A dry dock vessel that was towed to Slack Point recently will be towed back out by the end of the week.

A dry dock vessel that was towed to Slack Point recently will be towed back out by the end of the week.

A large section of dry dock taking up real estate on the Slack Point shoreline should be towed back out again by the end of this week, say ministry officials.

The dry dock section, approximately 110 feet by 77 feet long, was recently towed to Slack Point. Transport Canada had ordered its removal — along with the removal of four other similar-sized dry docks on Chemainus’ waterfront — when one of the dry docks sank in place in January.

“They obviously had concerns regarding public safety and hazard to marine navigation,” said Myles Mana, director of authorizations with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. “The others were leaking … they had pumps aboard, and they were keeping them afloat by virtue of pumping them, so they contacted us.”

The original plan, Mana said, was to get the one dry dock that was taking on water the worst to a spot where it wouldn’t sink. However, once the wood, steel and cement structure was sitting on Slack Point soil, it was determined that the cost to dismantle the four vessels would not be feasible.

According to Mana, the dry dock could be towed back to Chemainus as early as Monday (March 27).

“The province’s preference would have been to … have them properly dismantled and disposed of, but given that that isn’t going to happen, we’re back to working with Transport Canada to try to determine the best place we could put them somewhere where they could settle out on a shoal and remain there and not become a hazard to navigation while some other plan is developed to deal with them,” Mana explained.

Transport Canada could consider ocean disposal if the vessels are properly prepared, as they do not pose an environmental hazard, Mana said.

The five dry docks were originally towed to Chemainus harbour from an Esquimalt shipyard by an individual who had a Crown foreshore tenure in the area.

“His plan was to build a marina, and these dry dock sections were going to form a combination of a floating breakwater and a parking lot that people could drive on to get out onto the marina,” Mana said. “That whole development never materialized [due to financial difficulties] and they’ve just been sitting off Chemainus for a very long time.”

The province has already sunk several thousands of dollars into the effort to deal with the vessels and will be able to recoup some of that through a security deposit on the foreshore tenure.

There is, however, one silver lining that has come from the ordeal, Mana said.

“In conjunction with having this section of dry dock towed out of the harbour, we’ve got an excavator down there and we are going to demolish those two boats that are on the beach,” he said. “It will clean up the beach a little bit.”