Mark Collins – Seaspan at Work: RCN JSSs Still Sliding Right (CCG icebreaker not for now)

The story:

Federal shipbuilding program suffers delays
Reports reveal construction of supply ships, polar icebreak is behind schedule.

The federal shipbuilding program has hit another setback, as government documents show more delays in the construction of the navy’s new supply ships and the Canadian Coast Guard’s highly anticipated polar icebreaker.

The delays, revealed in departmental reports recently tabled in the House of Commons, are expected to cost taxpayers as the navy and coast guard are forced to rely even more heavily on stop-gap measures to address their needs.

The two supply ships, which together will cost $2.6 billion, and the $1.3-billion polar icebreaker, dubbed the John G. Diefenbaker, are to be constructed one after the other in Vancouver by shipbuilding company Seaspan…

National Defence and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans reported last year that the first new supply ship would enter the water in 2020, while the Diefenbaker would arrive in 2021 or 2022.

But the departments’ most recent timetable says construction of the first supply ship won’t be finished until at least 2021 [see end of post], with completion of the Diefenbaker similarly delayed until 2022 or 2023 [not news, see end of post]…

National Defence spokesman Evan Koronewski blamed “challenges associated with completing the detailed design and organizing the entire supply chain” for the delay in the supply ship schedule.

Those challenges were also responsible for pushing back construction of the Diefenbaker, as work on the icebreaker can’t start until the supply ships are finished.

The federal government has already committed millions of dollars in recent years to extend the lives of the current icebreaker fleet [Davie Québec much involved].

But the new delays help explain why the coast guard started looking last month at whether it can lease between one and five icebreakers from the private sector for the foreseeable future [seeDavie Québec Actually Going to Supply Some Icebreakers for Coast Guard?–the company’s proposed polar icebreaker is here].

They also mean that the navy will be forced to rely more on allies as well as a converted civilian cargo ship to provide fuel, food and other supplies to Canadian naval ships at sea [again from Davie, “Project Resolve“].

There have been questions over the years about Seaspan’s ability to construct complex military vessels, given that its previous shipbuilding experience has largely revolved around ferries [not this one] and tugboats…

Good questions. In fact the slippage of the Seaspan icebreaker’s delivery from 2021-22 to 2022-23 was already public this March, scroll down here. Also in March it was made public that the RCN JSS’ IOC had slipped from 2019 to 2020; now it has indeed slipped further to 2021. Gosharootie. Bets on the icebreaker’s schedule being kept? That Davie proposal seems well worth consideration.

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

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