Mark Collins – Davie Québec Wants to Build Icebreaker for, Unload Other Vessels on, Canadian Coast Guard

As things now stand the CCG is not supposed to get its–only one–new icebreaker, to be built by Seaspan Vancouver, until 2022 (if they’re lucky):

New Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker: Schedule and Costs

Looks like timing may be slipping a bit to the right and we’ll have to see about costs…

Meanwhile Canada’s third major shipyard, Davie Québec [website here], had been cut out of the government’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy for large vessels (the second yard, Irving Halifax, is supposed to build the RCN’s combat ships).  Nevertheless Davie will not go quietly into that good fogbank.  From May 2014:

New CCG Icebreaker: Quebec Cat Amongst Federal Shipbuilding Pigeons

I see no chance of the proposal below flying (i.e. it will sink) with the current government, fanatically wedded as it is to its National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy and the shipbuilding location decisions embedded therein.  Nonetheless Davie Shipyard may well be putting down a political marker should there be a new government after the 2015 federal election, one that has a considerable number of Quebec MPs [that sure was a good prediction, see below].

In this scenario B.C.’s Seaspan still gets the Joint Support Ships, to be completed for the RCN several years still down the road; but la belle province gets the icebreaker–and the Canadian Coast Guard (supposedly) gets its ship many years earlier.  Nice if realistic

That proposal did indeed sink.  But now Davie has refloated it with a different and more ambitious offer; the shipyard has some vessels for which the commercial orders have gone poof and it wants the feds to buy them instead, aka dodging the vagaries of the free market (even though the vessels are not part of the Coast Guard’s procurement plans–pretty cheeky, say I).  The icebreaker may however be really new :

Davie shipyard makes unsolicited bid to build for coast guard

An unsolicited bid — potentially worth up to $1 billion — to provide icebreakers and multi-purpose ships for the coast guard was submitted to the Trudeau government late last month, The Canadian Press has learned.

The proposal by Quebec-based Chantier Davie Canada Inc. has the potential to undercut one pillar of the national shipbuilding strategy, which delegates the construction of civilian ships to Vancouver’s Seaspan shipyard [no, “non-combat” ships–as noted Seaspan besides CCG vessels also has the Navy’s Joint Support Ships].

In a presentation to Public Services and Procurement Canada, Davie is partially reviving a pitch made to the former Conservative government in 2013, where it offered to a construct a Polar Class 3 [probably more capable Class 2, see “Nova Scotia” quote near end] icebreaker and deliver it in 18 months.

The latest bid offers not only that, but three smaller so-called River-class icebreakers and two multi-purpose ships, which could be used for scientific research, border patrol of search and rescue [would they fit the bill for some of the “five Medium Endurance Multi-Tasked vessels” planned to the mid-2020s? noted at the “procurement plans” link above?] .

The pitch involves converting three different types of vessels which Davie already has under construction — or can be obtained on the international market “at highly affordable prices.”

‘This is a fast-track solution’

Some of the ships were being built for the offshore oil and gas sector, but the collapse in energy prices has led to their cancellation [emphasis added].

“This is a fast-track solution providing enhanced capabilities at a fraction of the newbuilding (sic) price,” said the proposal.

Davie says its ships can be delivered at 60 per cent of the cost of the current program with Seaspan and gives the federal government the option of either buying or leasing the vessels.

The prices are blacked out from a copy of the Feb. 24 cover letter to Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote, which was obtained by The Canadian Press. But officials, speaking on background because they’re not authorized to talk to the media, say the pitch adds up to at least $1 billion, depending on the options chosen.

Alex Vicefield [see here], CEO of Davie’s parent company [Inocea–“a privately held group of companies headquartered in Europe (Monte-Carlo)”], said the pitch “has been very well received,” but would not go into detail.

‘Not be in anyone’s interest to hold back’

Public services and procurement spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold would not confirm receipt of the proposal but did say the government has not issued a request for proposals for icebreakers and reaffirmed the department’s commitment to the overall shipbuilding program…

The CCG could certainly use a new polar icebreaker before 2022 and the other vessels Davie has been put forward could well be welcome (see the 2013 situation here: “The Poor Canadian Coast Guard, or, Read Our Lips…); but is there likely to be any money for them in the March 22 budget that does take funding away from, say, other Coast Guard or Canadian Forces’ procurements?

Now have a look at my earlier wild-ass scheme actually to give Davie more business–RCN supply ships–without any need for increased overall funding:

Why not more Canadian Coast Guard Icebreakers Instead of RCN JSS?

After some considerable controversy Davie did get a deal for one interim supply ship last November, a sensible move.  In any event the political controversy over which provinces get to build ships keeps stridently on (with “documents leaked to The Canadian Press”):

Set Davie Yard straight on who builds ships, Nova Scotia premier tells Ottawa

Nova Scotia’s premier waded into the looming battle over the future of the national shipbuilding program on Thursday [March 10], saying he expects Ottawa to honour its multi-billion-dollar commitments to his province [see “RCN Canadian Surface Combatant: Exorcising the Curse of Irving“].

Stephen McNeil reacted to news that Chantier Davie Canada Inc. had last month submitted an unsolicited bid to the Trudeau government, offering to deliver six icebreakers and support ships to the coast guard faster and cheaper than what’s already planned under existing federal strategy [as noted above those ships are not in fact part of the existing strategy].

The Quebec-based yard also kicked it up a notch when it was revealed on Thursday that Davie also dropped a second unsolicited bid on the federal government to build a heavy icebreaker from scratch.

…the Levis yard is offering to built a brand new $794 million heavy icebreaker — known as a Polar Class 2 [that’s the same class as the Seaspan ship].

The pitch contained a shot at the Harper government.

“Please note that had the [previous] Davie proposal received proper attention we believe it merited, we would be delivering a Polar Class 2 icebreaker to the Canadian coast guard by the end of 2017 [who truly knows what Davie ships would cost and how fast they could be built],”… 

All of the above only re-emphasizes…

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


3 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Davie Québec Wants to Build Icebreaker for, Unload Other Vessels on, Canadian Coast Guard”

  1. Even though self-interested Davie nails craziness of fed shipbuilding program:

    The icebreaker Davie has on its hands:

    Mark Collins

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