Bluenose II takeover had to happen despite problems, says premier

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says the province had to take possession of the Bluenose II from the ship's builder despite a recently released report outlining dozens of outstanding problems with the vessel.

Inspection report lists more than 50 deficiencies

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said $25,000 will cover the mostly minor fixes still needed to fix the Bluenose II.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says the province had to take possession of the Bluenose II from the ship's builder despite a recently released report outlining dozens of outstanding problems with the vessel.

He said the company responsible for restoring the historic boat had satisfied the requirements outlined in its contract, which required the province to take possession of the ship on July 30.

"We have to take the vessel from the builder," McNeil told reporters on Thursday.

"It's not a question of whether or not we have a choice."

The Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation have criticized the province for taking possession of the Bluenose II before all its problems have been ironed out.

An inspection report released on Wednesday lists more than 50 deficiencies — including poorly-erected masts and loose deck planks — that the builder has promised to correct.

McNeil said $25,000 will cover the mostly minor fixes and the province's contract with the Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance spelled out when the vessel would change hands.

"They dealt with all of the major things that the builder is responsible for, that's why we have that vessel," he said.

"It is important to recognize that we've held back funding, that the deficiencies will be dealt with."

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says the province had to take possession of the Bluenose II from the ship's builder despite its problems. (CBC)

The minor fixes don't involve the cost of fixing the steering. The steel rudder is next to impossible to turn because it's heavier and harder to move than the old rudder, which was made of wood.

Rigging up hydraulics to make the steering easier will cost somewhere under $500,000, the premier said.

"We've bought a vessel that we don't know how much it's going to cost and that can't sail and can't steer," said Kevin Lacey, the Atlantic Canada director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

"It raises a whole bunch of questions about whether or not this was the right decision."

Sea trials coming

Meanwhile, McNeil said he's confident the Bluenose II will sail by the end of the year, but adds people in the province should feel frustrated by the delays and cost overruns.

"We have a focus on ensuring that we're prepared for next year and making sure that we can put that vessel through an aggressive sea trial this fall," he said.

At the project's outset in 2009, the provincial government estimated the work would cost $14.4 million, with $7.2 million coming from the federal government.

That had risen to $19 million as of June and that amount does not include another $5 million worth of work that is being disputed by the province.

Nova Scotia's auditor general is conducting a review of the restoration.

The Bluenose II, launched in 1963, is a replica of the original Bluenose, a Grand Banks fishing schooner that earned worldwide acclaim for its graceful lines and speed.

With files from The Canadian Press

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