Dutch Runner leaves Port Hawkesbury berth

    The Dutch Runner has been tied at the Port Hawkesbury Wharf since October 2015.

    PORT HAWKESBURY: A ship that has been docked on Port Hawkesbury’s waterfront for nearly three years has finally left port.

    The MV Dutch Runner departed the Strait of Canso Superport Corporation Pier in Port Hawkesbury on August 18.

    The ship originally docked in October of 2015 en route to Souris, PEI, but never undocked. Since then, the company in ownership of the Dutch Runner has been preparing the ship for its transfer from Canadian to Panamanian ownership.

    Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said the Dutch Runner required a series of repairs to make it seaworthy again.

    “They thought they would reach that milestone and have an end date, but things would always come up,” she said. “So it kind of turned into a drawn-out process, but it actually departed this time.”

    Attempts were made to return home four of the five sailors who spent three months working on, and living in, the Dutch Runner.

    One main issue with the prolonged stay was regarding the crew members who were assigned to maintain and supervise the Dutch Runner. There had been difficulties assembling the nine-member crew required to be on hand during a craft inspection conducted by officials from Panama, the Dutch Runner’s eventual destination.

    Five South American crew members abruptly left the ship in November 2016, filing complaints with Transport Canada of unfit living and working conditions and not receiving payment from the owners.

    Whether it was intentional or not, Alco International Trading Corp., the ownership group behind the Dutch Runner, continuously gave the false impression the cargo ship’s departure was imminent.

    Strait of Canso Superport Corp. (SCSC) CEO Tim Gilfoy said the Dutch Runner was a client of theirs who was looking for a berthing place for their vessel, which they provided.

    “It’s fair to say they stayed a little longer than they had hoped, but from our perspective, they were a good paying client to have tied up to our facility.”

    Some people made an issue of the prolonged stay, but the SCSC owns and operates the Port Hawkesbury Pier and part of that process is having paying clients tied up to the facility for the economic benefits, Gilfoy said.

    “For us, it wasn’t a proposition because it’s a part of our business,” he said. “They’re a good paying customer and that’s part of our business – to provide berthing space to our clients.”

    Chisholm-Beaton said the ship’s constant presence at the wharf was quite noticeable, as it became the backdrop to a lot of events hosted in the area, such as the Granville Green concert series.

    “There were a lot of comments on social media claiming the Dutch Runner to be an eye-sore, but Port Hawkesbury and Mulgrave wharfs are working environments as well as attractions to tourists. We accommodate a variety of vessels and the Dutch Runner was one of them” she said. “I don’t think it was ever intentional. The owners of the vessel had hoped it’d be seaworthy and able to transport to their new location, sometimes matters are out of one’s control.”

    There certainly is a group of people within the Strait area glad to see the Dutch Runner gone, Chisholm-Beaton said.

    “The cohort of people that got used to see it around, become a bit endearing to them. At the end of the day we were told it had a departure time, and surely in the past it was never met,” she said. “It’s frustrating when you’re given some information it’s leaving, but you also have to understand you’re working with an older vessel and it’s a working waterfront.”

    The SCSC doesn’t typically ask good paying clients to leave without a good reason, and based from a business standpoint, the Dutch Runner was in good standing as all docking fees were up to date.

    Photo by Grant McDaniel
    Three tall ships visited the Port Hawkesbury Waterfront last July, sharing the docks with the wharf’s most well-known resident, The Dutch Runner.

    In respect to the condition of the vessel, that was a Transport Canada issue Gilfoy said and the SCSC maintained contact with them to ensure there wasn’t a problem with the ship’s condition.

    “We’re pleased that everything worked out for them, so they were able to leave on their own steam,” Gilfoy said. “But having said that, we’re now faced with finding another vessel to put there as a good paying client.”

    Recently, Port Hawkesbury Town Council as well as different community groups have come together to establish a waterfront development committee, and will begin hosting a series of meetings this fall.

    “There is an expectation we have a beautiful waterfront and we want to develop and grow it to a location locals can enjoy and also an opportunity to attract tourists to Port Hawkesbury and the Strait area,” Chisholm-Beaton said.

    “Possibly the Dutch Runner wasn’t the perfect fit for our vision for our waterfront.”