Mark Collins – Davie Québec Wants to Build Icebreaker for, Unload Other Vessels on, Canadian Coast Guard, Part 2

Further to this post with lots of detail on the pitch and in which I wrote…


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…)…

it now looks as if the Davie idea may not be dead:

Leasing ships for coast guard an option, internal analysis suggests
Coast guard reviewing what ships it needs, but experts have warned the service faces a critical gap

 The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Pierre Radisson escorts ships in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the St. Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers, but has also broken the ice on Lake Superior.
The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Pierre Radisson escorts ships in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the St. Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers, but has also broken the ice on Lake Superior [St. Lawrence system and east coast are main icebreaking missions of the CCG, not the Arctic]. (Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans)

The door has been opened just slightly to the possibility of the Liberal government leasing more ships in order to cover gaps in the navy and coast guard fleets, newly released documents reveal.

Such a strategy has the potential to undermine the spirit of the national shipbuilding strategy, but in a report obtained by CBC News, federal officials argue there’s nothing in its exclusive arrangements with Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax and Seaspan in Vancouver that prohibits renting vessels.

Davie shipyard boss calls Canada’s national shipbuilding strategy ‘bizarre’

Liberal government to hire shipbuilding expert after costs soar

“While the [national shipbuilding strategy] focuses on circumstances where Canada is building new vessels, it does not directly address situations where a ship would be leased,” said a Feb. 26 memo to the deputy minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada.

“In such cases, it would be appropriate and consistent with procurement regulations and policies to undertake a broad examination of options that may be available from suppliers before selecting the procurement method to meet the requirements.”

Unsolicited bid

The comments were made following a pair of unsolicited bids dropped on the government by Quebec-based Chantier Davie Canada Inc., which was left out of the government’s strategy.

The shipyard’s pitch — potentially worth up to $1.7 billion — was to either sell or lease icebreakers and multipurpose ships for the coast guard.

It offered to build three smaller so-called River-class icebreakers, two multipurpose ships and a Polar Class icebreaker, which could be used for scientific research, border patrol and search and rescue. Some of the ships were being built for the offshore oil and gas sector, but the collapse in energy prices led to their cancellation.

Public Services Minister Judy Foote publicly rejected the proposal in March, but the analysis paints a more nuanced internal response.

Officials told Foote they had performed an internal analysis, “but do not have sufficient information based on this proposal to complete a full assessment,” said the briefing, obtained by the CBC under access to information legislation.

The coast guard and Public Services would need more data on the proposal to do that assessment and it recommended “a broader examination of options” involving other suppliers.

The analysis did suggest, however, that if federal officials were interested in any of the ships, it would be the three light icebreakers.It noted the coast guard was in the process of reviewing what ships it needed for the future. Some experts have warned that the service is facing a critical gap, particularly with icebreaking.

Coast guard in dire shape

A review of the Transportation Act tabled in Parliament a few months ago warned the service was in sorry shape.

“Not only is it understaffed, but its fleet is one of the oldest in the world and urgently requires renewal (individual ships average nearly 34 years of age),” said the legislated review, which was led by former Conservative cabinet minister David Emerson. “Without such renewal, it will have to pull ships from service, further reducing reliability [see “Canadian Coast Guard Going Down“].”

Irving Shipbuilding issued a statement on Tuesday [July 26], giving the federal government qualified support should it want to go down the leasing road…

Let’s hope the government makes whatever decision is actually in the best interests of our poor old Coast Guard. The previous government built precious little–see here, note link at final quote.

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

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