Mark Collins – New Canadian Coast Guard Vessels: Sticker Shock and Never Never Land, Oceanographic Section

Further to this post on the ballooning cost of the CCG’s three new fisheries science vessels  being built by Seaspan, Vancouver, we now learn that the follow-on single oceanographic research vessel also cannot be constructed within budget (quelle surprise! note in particular the shipyard problems which were only to be expected):

Budget for building oceanographic research ship inadequate, cabinet told

The federal cabinet will soon be asked to pump more money into one of the key civilian projects under the national shipbuilding strategy in what’s expected to be the first real test of the Trudeau government’s commitment to stick with the Conservative-era program.

The Canadian Press has learned that federal bureaucrats have warned the Liberals that the current $144 million budget for the offshore oceanographic science vessel is inadequate and will need to be topped up in order to complete the vessel.

The science ship will be built by Vancouver-based Seaspan shipyards as part of a package of non-combat vessels [scroll down here to “Non-combat package” at the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy’s website] meant to replace the coast guard’s aging fleet, including the nearly 52-year-old CCGS Hudson research vessel [webpage here–good flipping grief, that age!].

If approved by the Trudeau government, it would be the second funding injection for the program in the last eight years.

A series of documents leaked to The Canadian Press show the initial cost of the new research vessel was pegged at $108 million in 2008 and a year later the federal treasury board was required to pump an additional $35 million into the project [NO NEED FOR A LEAK–those figures have been publicly available here, scroll down to “Progress Report and Explanation of Variances“; note also the timetable: “Request for Proposal for Design Issued: April 2010″; “Delivery of Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel: 2017-18″–that’s eight perishing years!].

A spokesman for the Fisheries Department, which oversees the coast guard, would not confirm the size of the new funding increase — or the specific reason for it, but suggested the situation is still in flux.

“No increase to the original … budget has yet been determined,” David Walters said. “Costing information will continue to improve as engineering work for the new vessel progresses.”

But a slide deck briefing, dated Nov. 16 and provided to federal ministers, warned that “significant funding decisions” were required for both the navy’s planned frigate replacements and the oceanographic science vessel, specifically “whether to provide the budget increase required to complete the project.”

It comes at an awkward time, as a cabinet committee is reportedly set to review a controversial decision related to the military shipbuilding project [see “RCN Ship Procurement, or, the Curse of Irving: Canadian Surface Combatant Section“].

The oceanographic vessel is separate program from three planned fisheries science vessels, which are already under construction at Seaspan and have had their own budget woes. The briefing shows the budget for the fisheries ships increased by 181 per cent to $687 million between 2009 and 2015.

Part of the escalation had to do with the federal government’s inexperience in managing “multiple, complex ship projects” in an industry that under previous Liberal and Conservative governments had become moribund.

The documents note there was also a steep learning curve for the Vancouver shipyard, which “needed to find skilled staff, establish capability to undertake design work and learn how to use new facilities — (something that) led to delays and increased cost for offshore fisheries science vessels.”..

The madness!  The Madness!

The Extravagant Lunacy of Building RCN and Canadian Coast Guard Vessels in Canada

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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4 thoughts on “Mark Collins – New Canadian Coast Guard Vessels: Sticker Shock and Never Never Land, Oceanographic Section”

  1. The lesson clearly is that, because we are a maritime nation (like it or not, understand what that implies or not), we cannot treat shipbuilding like this. There should be a constant national (and provincial where that applies) program of building ships including warships, supply ships, various CCG ships, lakers and ferries. If this long-term effort, talent and money seems too much to consider or wil be subject to soul-destroying public service and media nattering — then we should just buy off the shelf. Doing it the way we are now is not working as it relies on (as the article suggests) moribund industries becoming active again for awhile but then lapsing back into obscurity for another decade or two. That is the insanity and madness.

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