16 Coast Guard ships to be built in $15.7B ‘fleet renewal’ plan in B.C.: Trudeau

Two other ships will be built in Nova Scotia

The federal Liberals have ripped open Canada’s multibillion-dollar plan to build new ships for the navy and coast guard, prompting cheers and frustration from shipyards in different parts of the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used a Canadian Coast Guard vessel in Vancouver as a backdrop Wednesday to announce that Ottawa would spend $15.7 billion on new ships for the coastal service.

The spending includes two more Arctic patrol vessels from Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding, which is building six such ships for the navy, and 16 so-called multi-purpose vessels from Seaspan Shipbuilding in Vancouver.

The coast guard desperately needs new ships: Documents obtained by The Canadian Press this year warned more than one-third of its 26 large vessels have exceeded their expected lifespans.

READ MORE: B.C. company awarded $230-million shipbuilding contract

And their advanced age affects the coast guard’s ability to do its job, including reduced search-and-rescue coverage, ferry-service disruptions and cancelled resupply runs to the Arctic.

“The men and women of the coast guard have been making do with the vessels they have, some of which are almost as old as the coast guard,” Trudeau said Wednesday.

“That is why we are doing a complete fleet renewal.”

Yet the biggest surprise came when Trudeau revealed the government intends to add a third shipyard as a partner in the national shipbuilding strategy, in an apparent nod to Davie Shipbuilding in Quebec City.

“Canada’s two existing shipyards don’t have the capacity to deliver the fleet renewal by themselves,” said Trudeau, who was flanked by Liberal ministers and MPs from the Vancouver area.

“So we’re also starting a competitive process for a third yard to help build ships when they’re needed.”

Seaspan and Irving were selected following a competition in 2011 as the two shipyards responsible for building billions of dollars in new vessels for the navy and coast guard.

Davie competed, but was passed over and has since fought for scraps outside the plan, including an interim support ship for the navy and three used icebreakers for the coast guard.

The Quebec City shipyard nonetheless aggressively lobbied for admittance into the shipbuilding plan, pointing to delays, cost overruns and the fact neither Irving nor Seaspan has delivered a vessel as proof the strategy needed to change.

Trudeau stopped short of guaranteeing Davie a spot at the table. Still, Davie spokesman Frederik Boisvert sounded beyond confident, saying the shipyard was clearly now part of the shipbuilding strategy.

“They recognize the fact that this strategy has been failing the government and the Canadian Coast Guard and the navy for years,” he said.

“This strategy badly needs extra capacity and that’s exactly what Davie Shipbuilding is providing.”

The mood was more sombre at Seaspan, where any celebrations over the government’s promise of 16 multipurpose vessels was dulled by the threat of Davie taking away work.

Seaspan was selected through the national shipbuilding strategy in 2011 to build four science vessels and a polar icebreaker for the coast guard, as well as two support ships for the navy.

While the Vancouver shipyard has been troubled by delays, including faulty welding on some of the ships, the company said it is now making headway. The first science vessel is scheduled for delivery next month.

In 2013, the previous Conservative government announced that Seaspan would build 10 other coast guard vessels afterward, but a deal was never finalized.

The promise of 16 new multipurpose vessels gives the company the clarity it has wanted, but Seaspan vice-president Tim Page said the entry of a third shipyard into the shipbuilding plan raises new questions about his company’s long-term viability — and that of the entire industry.

“We disagree with the need to add a third shipyard to meet the needs of our Canadian customers,” he said.

“We’re worried the entry of a third shipyard will return Canada to the boom-and-bust cycles that have defined previous federal shipbuilding programs.”

Irving Shipbuilding didn’t weigh in on the addition of a third yard, instead simply welcoming the government’s decision to purchase two more Arctic patrol vessels.

Irving was selected in 2011 to build five Arctic patrol vessels and the navy’s new fleet of 15 warships, which latest estimates peg at $60 billion. The Liberals ordered a sixth Arctic vessel and agreed to pay Irving to slow production at a cost of $800 million to prevent layoffs between the end of work on the last Arctic ship and the start of warship work.

Even then, federal bureaucrats and Irving have warned there was still the threat of an 18- to 24-month production gap between the two fleets.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack baby is the pancake poster child for provincewide fundraiser

Face of one-year-old patient Sauyer Bell is who IHOP chose for its BC Children’s Hospital fundraiser

Residential Tenancy Branch won’t allow B.C. landlord to evict tenant even though he’s in jail

Landlord baffled at arbitrator decision based on notice of hearing not being served properly

From the Chilliwack Progress Archives: Central public school principal paints a bleak picture

In 1925, the principal of a Chilliwack school had strong words for a class of Grade 8 students

Fraser Valley couple wins $500K after finding scratch-and-win while moving

  • Robert Walters and Lois Gueret of Agassiz win half a million from Scratch & Win ticket

Stolen truck recovered by RCMP after it was used to commit crimes

Older red Chevy S10 was linked to thefts last weekend from rural and industrial areas of Chilliwack

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

B.C. Liberals call for assistance on soaring strata insurance rates

NDP’s Carole James says problem is across the country

Most Read