Bluenose II 'test drive' cancelled at last minute

The rebuilt Bluenose II "test drive" was cancelled at the last minute due to a missing certificate, the province says.

Project to rebuild historic schooner millions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule

Bluenose II, remains at the wharf in Lunenburg and it is unclear when sea trials will begin. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

A "test drive" for the rebuilt Bluenose II was cancelled just hours before the ship was due to hit the water Wednesday. 

Glenn Friel, spokesperson for the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, said the cancellation was due to a "missing American Bureau of Shipping certificate" which is a certificate that grants permission for the vessel to leave the dock.

Kelliann Dean, deputy minister of the heritage department, said the province had a verbal agreement with ABS that they did not need a certificate in order to test drive the vessel. 

But Dean says, Tuesday night, ABS informed the province not only did they need an ABS certificate, but they were also required to have an ABS representative onboard the Bluenose II during the sailing. 

She says it will be at least a few days before the Bluenose II will be allowed to leave the dock but it could be as long as a few weeks. 

The schooner is millions of dollars over budget and late returning to service.  

The vessel has not yet been ready for sea trials.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil told reporters he's frustrated. 

"Like every Nova Scotian I'm completely disappointed, frustrated by the fact that this project has continued to linger," he said. 

The premier is putting the province's top civil servant in charge of getting the Bluenose II sailing again, Deputy Minister David Darrow.

Darrow was the same minister in charge of cleaning up the Sydney Tar Ponds.

"We're now saying to David ... We want the full resources of government, whatever's required, whether you need something from [the Department of Transportation] or any other department, we want this thing settled."

Earlier this year, McNeil called the project a "boondoggle" and asked the auditor general's office to investigate.

The auditor general was called in to do a total review of the project, a project which has now racked up a bill of $18 million.

The Bluenose II was supposed to return to regular sailing in the summer of 2012 after an extensive two-year rebuild. 

The test drive will be rescheduled for as soon as possible so formal sea trials can begin.