Bluenose II to be refitted with wooden rudder

The Bluenose II's troubled steering system is being changed to a wooden rudder, something shipbuilding consultants were suggesting as early as 2011.

Rebuild has spanned eight years and three governments

The Bluenose II sails into Lunenburg harbour. (CBC)

The Bluenose II's troubled steering system is being changed to a wooden rudder, something shipbuilding consultants were suggesting as early as 2011.

"The steel rudder as it was being built and constructed, there were people in the know here in Nova Scotia that were uncomfortable with that plan. It's certainly come full circle. I think that's a good way to describe it," Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan said Thursday. 

The ship has faced a series of problems with its steering, which a 2015 consultant's report said was due to the weight of its steel rudder. The government went with steel in 2014, saying it best suited the requirements of the American Bureau of Shipping. 

The ship was also fitted with a hydraulic steering system needed to turn the rudder, which proved unwieldy in sea trials.

8-year rebuild

The Bluenose rebuild has spanned eight years and three governments of different parties. Last year, an auditor general's report attributed the problems to a failure of leadership and planning. MacLellan said the report was an "eyeopener." 

"This has been an issue as identified by the auditor general that the project management, the timelines, the budget, this is one of those projects that was really rushed out the door to access federal money," he said. 

Earlier this year, a consultant's report said the new rudder would cost up to $1 million. MacLellan didn't have an exact figure Thursday, but suggested the estimate is still about right. 

"We don't have the specific numbers yet," MacLellan said. "The consultants have indicated all along that we would stay under that $25-million budget." 

Sign-off still needed

MacLellan said his latest figures show the province has spent about $23.8 million on the Bluenose to date, and has approximately $1.2 million left in the budget. 

"So every indication is that we'll be within that number," he said. 

MacLellan did not know yet whether the existing hydraulic system would have to be torn out, and the American Bureau of Shipping still has to sign off on the design.

The government hopes to have all Bluenose problems resolved by the 2017 sailing season. 

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Shaina Luck

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Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca