The 80-foot smokestack that has defined the Port of New Bedford’s skyline for over a century was scheduled for demolition on Tuesday. Police and fire details were scheduled to clear the roads. A small crowd had gathered on a nearby wharf to watch the structure fall. 

But despite the extensive planning, the subcontractor hired to implode the towering structure failed to secure the proper insurance, said Andrew Saunders, president of the Foss Marine Terminal. Now, the demolition will be pushed back. The smokestack, which will no longer be imploded, will continue to loom over the waterfront for at least another week, he said. 

“The explosives contractor arrived in the morning but he didn’t bring any dynamite with him,” Saunders said. “That’s when he let people know he had a problem with his insurance.” 

The issue first surfaced about three weeks ago, Saunders said, when he and others were informed the insurance underwriter had questions about their plan to implode the smokestack. They learned on Tuesday the insurance company declined to insure the demolition of the structure, according to the company leading the demolition.

“Everybody involved was led to believe those concerns had been satisfied,” Saunders said. “Everyone was proceeding as if the subcontractor’s demolition insurance was resolved and that we would have the blast.” 

The demolition subcontractor is Saunders Drilling and Blasting of Lancaster, Saunders said. He added that there is no familial relationship between him and the subcontractor. The explosives subcontractor declined to comment when reached by phone on Wednesday. 

Saunders Drilling and Blasting has done explosives for other demolition projects in the area, including the Col. Edward H.R. Green radar tower in Dartmouth in 2007, according to a clip from The Standard-Times archive. That structure, the demolition of which received pushback from the town’s historic commission, was built in 1917 — one year after the 390-foot brick building that supports the smokestack.

Scott Kruger, chief of the New Bedford Fire Department, declined to define the role of his department for this specific demolition project. 

Andrew Saunders and a group of investors purchased the 30-acre waterfront facility in March for $13.6 million from utility companies Eversource and Sprague Energy. It was formerly known as the Cannon Street Power Station. Saunders and the investors say the facility is being cleared, except for a few small buildings, to host a staging area for the coming offshore wind industry. 

The demolition of the former power station, the largest building on the property, is being led by Costello Dismantling Co. of Wareham. Asbestos abatement was completed before the demolition of the building began, said Dan Costello, president of the company. “We have made tremendous precautions to contain that area,” he said. 

The company, which hired the explosive subcontractor, will no longer be imploding the smokestack. Instead, they will use a crane to take down the smokestack, piece by piece.

“The technical term is: we’ll whack it down,” Costello said.

Email Will Sennott at

Thank you to our sponsors

Founding benefactors: Irwin and Joan Jacobs, Mary and Jim Ottaway