Canadian Shipbuilding and its government promises...

Here are a couple of articles regarding the Canadian Government and shipbuilding found recently in my Canadian Sailings edition. Kinda like a look back at the misteps of the past, mmmm, are they doing it again?


Plans for Coast Guard patrol boats thrown off schedule
By Alex Binkley, Aug 6, 2007

Plans to build 10 new patrol boats for the Canadian Coast Guard have been thrown off schedule by the Public Works Department over concerns about the fairness of the bidding process.

The Coast Guard will operate the boats for both marine security and fisheries inspections. When they are in security mode, such as on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, they will carry armed Mounties.

Coast Guard spokesman Dan Bate said the goal was to have the boats ready for 2009. The Public Works move will likely amount to a nine-month delay, which means the boats won't start appearing until 2010 if all goes well.

What Public Works did in July was cancel a request for proposals process started on behalf of the Coast Guard last year. Four potential builders had expressed interest in the contract.

"Once evaluation of the four proposals that were received was underway, it became clear that the mandatory requirements needed to be more clearly defined in order to ensure fairness to all bidders," said Public Works spokesperson Lucie Brosseau.

A meeting with the builders is scheduled this month.

Mr. Bate said that when Public Works started to look at proposals from the builders, it became concerned that they were responding to some of the criteria. Basically, the Coast Guard called for boats built to a proven design. "Each component of the bid such as speed of the vessel and different capabilities had to be evaluated:' Mr. Bate said. "But it was unclear for some of them."

He added that the Coast Guard is confident that a viable solution to the bidding process will be found during the August meeting and that the bidding process can be restarted.

There have been off-the-record complaints from the industry that the Coast Guard was trying to stuff too many features into the vessels, with the risk that they would either be too slow or have poor seaworthiness.

"There was a common problem with bidders demonstrating compliance with the government's mandatory requirements," Ms. Brosseau said. "This in turn would have resulted in all of the bids being declared non compliant. In other words, we had not clearly articulated our mandatory requirements in our RFP.

"These are specialized vessels with unique requirements and they are not simple off-the-shelf purchases, both in terms of technical specifications and in terms of value of the purchase.'


Icebreakers interest Washington


West Coast-based Washington Marine Group, with shipyards in North Vancouver and Victoria, is interested in bidding on a new class of light icebreakers announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"We are certainly going to look at this," Roland Webb, the group's president of shipyards, told Canadian Sailings. WMG was to attend an industry briefing in Ottawa on Aug. 2.

The prime minister has said up to eight Class 5 Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels may be built, along with the construction of a support base. in Nunavut. Vessel cost is put at $3.1 billion, with a further $4.5 billion being spent on operations and maintenance over the 25year life of the ships.

Mr. Webb said the designation Class 5 has caused some confusion. "Under the old system, a Class 5 icebreaker would be capable of continuous progress in ice five feet thick:' he said. "The classification system has been turned upside down and nowadays a Class 1 would be an icebreaker capable of breaking any ice while a Class 5 can tackle only first-year ice (ice hardens as it ages and salt leaches out).'

Mr. Webb said 100-metre Class 5 ships of the type proposed could be built at either of the group's North Vancouver or Victoria yards.

"They want the first ship in 2013, but a lot of stuff has to happen to make sure this is a viable project:' he said.

Mr. Harper's promised Arctic fleet is a far cry from the Polar 8 icebreaker promised the West Coast shipbuilding industry in the 1980s. That vessel, had it been built, would have been a diesel electric rival to the nuclear-powered icebreakers of what was then the Soviet Union.

Announced by prime minister Brian Mulroney in 1985, the Polar 8 could have operated in the Arctic year round, breaking multi-year ice up to eight feet thick (hence the name).

The project was canceled in 1989 after the West Coast shipbuilding industry had been told that it couldn't expect a share of costly naval modernization and new construction programs because it was going to get the plum of building Canada's most powerful icebreaker.