Bluenose II delays: Who's to blame?

A report leaked to CBC Nova Scotia reveals new details about the costly delays in rebuilding the Bluenose ll, suggesting all parties share the blame, including the project manager, designers and builders.

It turns out, just about everyone involved, according to a report obtained by CBC News

Project faces more delays. 2:26

A report leaked to CBC Nova Scotia reveals new details about the costly delays in rebuilding the Bluenose ll, suggesting all parties share the blame, including the project manager, designers and builders. 

The 14-page document was written by retired naval architect Dawson "Dusty" Miller of Nova Scotia who has more than 50 years experience in the shipbuilding industry, mostly as a project manager. 

He was hired in December and submitted his report to the provincial government in February. Miller declined to comment on the report, saying he is bound by a confidentiality agreement.​ However, in the leaked report, Miller said delays came early in the project.

"The significant differences in the technical content of the drawings produced by the designer and the level of detail expected to be received by the builder, caused late starts in portions of the shipyard's work," he said.

"Lengkeek Vessel Engineering takes the position that their level of detail in the design drawings was sufficient and similar to the level they use in other projects. The builder argues the drawings were not detailed enough."

Delays and cost overruns have plagued the rebuild. It's two years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget. The price tag currently sits at $16.7 million — a figure the government says will rise before the work is completed. 

Some blame many of the cost overruns on the decision to work with the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) after the contract to build the ship was signed. ABS is a certification society that requires design and construction of the ship to meet certain standards.

While ABS "did increase the work scope," Miller said, "in my opinion, the submitted costs far exceed what I would have expected."

Costs soar, delays pile up

The provincial minister responsible, Tony Ince, now says the total cost could reach as high as $18 million.

The province said it and its partners agreed to an independent third-party review to try and address a dispute around the delay and subsequent construction costs associated with the Bluenose II.

"We had hoped that having an independent expert look at this, it would identify ways to resolve these issues quickly," said government spokesperson Glenn Friel in an email to CBC News.

Many changes were ordered for the ship as construction went along. Miller said that process became adversarial.

"It appears that production meetings never operated in a co-operative mode between the parties, rather, adversity seemed to be the normal situation. Each party's position becoming harder and harder," he said.

Steel rudder 'potentially an embarrassment'

Miller is critical of the steel rudder that is the focus of on-going steering problems with the ship. The wheel is about three times harder to turn than normal, making navigation difficult.

He calls it "potentially an embarrassment to the project."

Miller said "the final arrangement of the rudder and its support is very unusual and very problematic for efficient construction and installation and subsequent maintenance." 

Miller said all of those involved, including the project managers, the builders, and the designers must take responsibility for allowing the rudder to go on the ship.

The suggestion that ABS insisted the rudder be installed the way it is does not hold water, said Miller, calling that an "excuse."

"There is a review process and, with a detailed explanation, ABS would have acknowledged the rudder as problematic," he said.  

Bluenose II rebuild considered a "new vessel"

Peter Kinley, president of the Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance that built the boat, said his group raised concerns about the rudder with the province in meetings, letters and emails.  

"We did what reasonably we could do other than stand up on our desk and jump up and down," said Kinley.

Miller also said the rebuilt Bluenose II is not "restored."

"It's being considered by ABS as a new vessel and will be handled correspondingly," he said. 

When complete, Miller said it will be issued a certificate saying it's a new schooner.

Minister Ince said he is standing by the builders and designers.

"I will work very hard to try to work with those individuals so we can at least minimize some of the conflicts."