BRIDGEWATER, N.S. - An old Canadian warship is on the move again in Nova Scotia as officials try to determine its future.
The Fraser, a decommissioned St. Laurent-class destroyer, left Bridgewater on Tuesday en route to Halifax.
The vessel was towed by two tugs to a berth owned by the Defence Department while officials decide whether to preserve it, sink it to create an artificial reef, or dismantle it.
The vessel, commissioned in 1957, is one of the first warships to be completely designed and built in Canada.
The Fraser was taken to Bridgewater in 1997 after the Artificial Reef Society of Nova Scotia bought it for $1 with the hope of restoring her as a floating museum, but that never happened.
One lengthy distraction was a court battle with the Nova Scotia government over its assessment. The province initially said the ship was taxable, then changed its decision. The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia ruled in favour of the owners of the Fraser, but because of its legal bills never got enough money to repaint the ship.
Society president Rick Welsford, who came under personal attack during the recent provincial election campaign for having the Fraser, said he has no regrets.
"Twelve years ago, there was nobody who had any capacity to protect that ship and she would have been an artificial reef by now," he said. "There were groups that were wishing to take on a restoration project but they had no capacity."
"This ship still has an opportunity now because of the environment and the care we provided to the best of our ability while she was in Bridgewater."
Welsford said his work now is to persuade the federal government to restore the ship rather than scrap or sink her.
"Having them as a partner now is the perfect outcome for the Fraser. Our job now is to help them figure out how to keep the restoration project under way."
In an unprecedented move, the navy took back possession of the Fraser shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday, handing a $1 cheque to Welsford who, in exchange, handed over the life-saving ring from the vessel and a key to the gate of ship.
"We can fix it up, preserve it for heritage purposes, or we could dispose of her for scrap or we could sink her as an artificial reef, so those are the three things we're looking at," said navy Cmdr. Mike Considine.
"We haven't made a decision. That'll be done over the next weeks and months."