Mark Collins – Non-Combat Vessels for Coast Guard, RCN: The Curse of the Seaspan Vancouver

Further to these posts,

Seaspan Building Joint Support Ships for RCN: No Smooth Sailing

Canadian Coast Guard Going Down
[note further links at post]

we now learn of some significant federal largesse to help the shipyard actually build ships:

Harper government gave Seaspan shipyard $40M contract on election day
Election-day win for shipyard undercut Harper pledge that yards would pay for their own upgrades

On the very day of its defeat last fall, the Harper government quietly awarded a $40-million “engineering” contract to the Seaspan shipyard in North Vancouver [website here], despite having promised that the yard would prepare itself to build new ships “at no cost to Canada.”

Two months later, in December 2015, a confidential report for the new Liberal government, obtained by CBC News, found that the program remains chaotic, poorly managed and marked by “fragmentation, inefficiencies and delays.”

Seaspan is one of two yards chosen by the former Conservative government to share a vast, $36-billion shipbuilding program for the navy and the coast guard. The other is the Irving shipyard in Halifax. To qualify for the work, both were required to upgrade their yards at their own expense.

– Report raises alarm over Canada’s aging coast guard fleet
– Davie shipyard boss calls Canada’s national shipbuilding strategy ‘bizarre’
– Irving Shipbuilding’s deal to build Arctic patrol vessels questioned

Seaspan was assigned some $8 billion to build four small science vessels, two big supply ships for the navy and a polar icebreaker for the coast guard. But actual construction contracts for the large vessels [the Joint Support Ships] have not been finalized and the contract awarded last Oct. 19 is not for building any of them.

The contract was part of a little-noticed plan to help Seaspan get ready for work on a scale it has never before attempted, even as the government of Stephen Harper insisted that these preparations would cost taxpayers nothing [emphasis added].

No announcement contradicting that promise was made, although, at a committee hearing in December 2014, a government official admitted to MPs that “basically, what we’re doing is investing in the shipyard’s capability to get itself up to capacity, to start churning out vessels [emphasis added].”

A big win on election day

That process became a contract for $39.7 million, awarded on Oct. 19, 2015 — election day.

…a report by the government’s procurement strategy secretariat in December 2015 found persistent “inefficiencies and delays” in the so-called “non-combat program” (NCP), meaning the ships to be built by Seaspan, as opposed to the warships being built by Irving in Halifax [that shipyard has its own curses].

The report summarizes a series of expert reviews that paint a bleak picture of disarray in the program — both at Seaspan and in the government bureaucracy.

It found a “lack of sufficient human resources in the shipyard and within the government to effectively manage a program with the complexities of the NCP. All parties underestimated the capacity required.”

The secretariat concluded that there was “a lack of clarity between all parties on expectations and priorities” and “insufficient framework to enable the effective management of the NCP.” This had resulted in “lost opportunities to capitalize on economies of scale.”

The new Liberal government…says it is “fully committed” to the previous government’s shipbuilding strategy…

Why? The whole National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy [website here] is a right royal balls-up.

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


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