Millroy: Just Walk Away


Way back when, I supported locating the retired MS Norgoma at what is now known as the Roberta Bondar Marina.

I thought it could be a tourist attraction but also something locals might spend some time in, depending on what was done with the ship.

It didn’t turn out that way on either front.

Although those involved in the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre put a lot of time, effort and money, a lot of the latter coming from the city, into the ship, they never seemed able to bring it to the level of a legitimate enterprise.

Therefore I had no objection when the city removed the Norgoma from the marina on June 4 at a cost of about $50,000 and is now berthing it on a temporary basis at a location owned by Purvis Marine, just west of Algoma Steel, at a cost of $40 a day.

The city back in 1981 had conveyed the Norgoma to the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre.

It now wants the ship back and has filed a motion with the court to bring this about.
Sault Star reporter Elaine Della-Mattia quoted City CAO Malcolm White as saying the city believes that the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre breached the terms of its 1981 agreement, which allows the city to reconvey the vessel.

She also said it is seeking costs for moving the ship from Roberta Bondar Marina, the cost of berthing it at the Purvis dock and costs associated with completing repairs, including the remediation and removal of contaminated water from the hull of the ship.

Louis Muio, chair of the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre, was quoted as saying, “It’s disappointing that the city would hardline a bunch of volunteers who have put a lot of time into this ship and only want to run it as a museum.”

But beyond that Muio seemed to send out a mixed message, saying the board was under the impression the city had taken over the ownership of the Norgoma but also announcing that the board had recently hired Elliott Lake lawyer Doug Elliott to discuss options and determine how to proceed.

The board can fight to retain ownership of the Norgoma but I have to ask, why would it”
It couldn’t make a go of it when it was berthed at the Roberta Bondar Marina, where does it think it could make a go of it now? It doesn’t have a home for it; it couldn’t find a home for it when the city said it wanted it moved, why would anyone think a home would suddenly appear now?

No, I suggest the board, which has said it only has about $25,000 in its coffers, call it a day and let the city have its way with it.

I have no doubt allowing the ship to return to city ownership will mean it will be destroyed because as it stands it will just remain a drag on taxpayers’ money. The city, as with the board, would have no means of turning it into a profit-making venture, not that it would want to.

I think the board should walk away, saving everyone court costs.

But having said that, I think the city should do some walking too.

These volunteers made a valiant effort over the years to turn into a viable enterprise a ship that the city, not they, brought to Sault Ste. Marie.

As such, I don’t think they should be saddled with any of the costs of getting rid of the vessel, other than passing on to the city the $25,000 they have on hand, minus any outstanding expenses.

I believe if the city can find the money, about $7.5 million, to turn the redo of Bay Street into a “signature project”, surely it should be able to eat the cost of decommissioning the Norgoma, rather than attempting to foist them onto a local group whose efforts, although valiant, fell short..


  1. Some folks like to point out that OTHER cities have been successful with turning ships into restaurants . The difference I think is the QUALITY of the ships. The Norgoma was a rusting hulk when it first docked on the waterfront. Ships in other centres were likely more possible to maintain. It is time to move on from all this Norgoma talk and get it sold OR sunk.

  2. Interesting the S S Norisle volunteers did not walk away when their far larger vessel in a more tenuous situation, and they prevailed. A dangerous example for the Sault. Like a quack doctor wanting the bury one of his sick victims before the family asks too many questions, the city of Sault Ste Marie pushes onward with much haste.

  3. Why should the city show restraint? It is best to make an example of these volunteers. Like it did with that terminated city employee. Teach younger others who might also have ideas. Send them packing to other places if they don’t like it. Civic participation is to be done only through recognized channels. Woe be to anyone that would challenge this. Never give a mark a second chance once you have his money. Ask yourselves this: Would President Donald J Trump step back? Or would he keep his shoe on the throat of the vanquished? I think we know the answer.

  4. I wish both the City and the Norgoma board could’ve looked beyond the Sault to see what successful and lively things other cities have done with old vessels. We don’t even need to go outside Northern Ontario for an example: North Bay’s The Boat is a landmark on their waterfront (restaurant and bar) and from their website it appears to be popular and lively.

    But alas, like many things here in this town, it’s all about who has money. Maybe the owners of the Machine Shop development can help.

  5. Scrap is badly needed at Algoma and it brings a good price too. Very few complained when the YankCanuck was cut up for scrap and very few will complain if the Norgoma is scrapped—in my opinion. The old ferries are gone and so is the little cruise ship that we had for small cruises.
    A ship was recently sunk in Lake Ontario near Owen Sound for Divers to visit it.
    Let’s move on !

    • Actually they were thwarted in that endeavor. The S S Norsile was to be sunk as a dive site but the volunteer group came back and the host community gave way.

  6. Confusion and misdirection abound, to quote a Manzoism “Skullduggery”
    Can all of this get any more dysfunctional?

    Give it a couple days!

  7. That heap should have been cut up for scrap the day after it arrived there. It needed half a million dollars to restore it which was never going to happen. Everyone has far more important things to worry about like our pitiful shot roads.. Give it up already.

  8. Mr. Muio and his committee should hand over the 25 grand to the city and call it a day. They put up a valiant effort and should be congratulated on that. The city…since it wants the ship back…should absorb all future costs. Going to court will only further punish the volunteer group who have no money anyhow. Dismantle the ship and stop the 40 dollar a day charge as soon as possible. Taxpayers should not be burdened with that cost any longer than necessary to rid ourselves of the rusting hulk.

  9. I very disappointed with the current state of this situation, especially since it appears to be a personal issue with the mayor.
    Granted, the SMRMHC wasn’t able to elevate the ship to a viable attraction, but it seems to me that we completely neglect our maritime heritage.
    It’s an ignominious end to a valiant effort.
    But I agree, if the city wants to play hardball, then it should absorb the costs associated with removing the ship, and not seek recompense from a hard-working group of volunteers

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