After spending eight years and $20-million in a quixotic bid to fix up a bargain-basement Soviet car ferry once derided as the “rust bucket from Estonia,” the government of Newfoundland and Labrador have given up, selling it for scrap for just $76,000.
The 43-metre, 24-car M/V Nonia, which began its commission in the final days of European communism before becoming a persistent drain on Newfoundland’s ferry maintenance budget, is currently in St. Mary’s Bay being stripped down for its ignoble retirement as a floating work platform.
“We realized that continuing to invest money into the Nonia was throwing good money after bad,” Nick McGrath, the province’s Minister of Transportation and Works told a news conference Monday.
Built in 1986 in what is now the capital of Latvia, the Nonia sailed under the name Ahelaid until 1999, when the Liberal government of Newfoundland and Labrador bought it from a newly independent Estonia for $1.2-million.
Officials optimistically assumed the ship could be ready for service after a simple two-year, $1.7-million retrofit. Instead, it would take five years and more than $11-million to make the vessel seaworthy.
Even then, the ship was notoriously prone to breakdown. The Nonia’s steering gave out in 2007. Three years later, an onboard fire took out the ship’s electrical system, briefly leaving it adrift at sea. That same year, the ship needed a six-figure “emergency refit” after sustaining ice damage off the province’s northeast coast.
As the Nonia often worked to replace other ships that had broken down, these breakdowns sometimes had the effect of stranding remote communities.