Nova Scotia

Heddle Marine wins Coast Guard contract months after aborted refit

Questions are being raised about the awarding of another refit contract for the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Hudson to the same company behind an aborted refit last year on the venerable science research ship.

$4-million exterior overhaul of CCGS Hudson fell months behind schedule and was left incomplete

The famed research vessel, CCGS Hudson, has been in service since 1962. (John Darrell David/Facebook)

Questions are being raised about the awarding of another refit contract for the Canadian Coast Guard ship Hudson to the same company behind an aborted refit on the science research ship last year.

"My question is, with the problems with that dry docking, why was this firm allowed to bid on this one?" asked Wayne Snow, the CEO of Dartmouth-based KMS Industries Inc.

Snow was an unsuccessful bidder on a mechanical refit of the Hudson. The work was awarded Friday to Heddle Marine Service Inc (NL).

It's an affiliate of Heddle Marine Services, which carried out the troubled $4-million exterior overhaul of CCGS Hudson in 2017.

That refit was months behind schedule and still unfinished when Public Services and Procurement Canada stepped in in October and towed Hudson out of the Heddle Marine shipyard in Hamilton, Ont.

Why a second chance?

The plan was to complete the refit at a federal facility in nearby Burlington, Ont., but the job was incomplete when Hudson returned to its Halifax home port in November. The vessel was operating under an interim provision certificate by Lloyds Register. 

The contract has been under review for months and outstanding issues remain.

"For us, it's an issue that should be answered by government as to why this company is allowed to come back and bid after not completing the first refit," said Tony Kennedy of Canadian Marine Engineering, another losing bidder.

Kennedy and Snow are competitors, but are united in speaking out on this tender.

'Substantially' lower bid

They say Heddle won the mechanical refit with a bid of $731,000, which was between 10 and 15 per cent below their bids.

Public Services and Procurement Canada also allotted all bidders a set price of $80 per hour for up to 1,000 hours, totalling $80,000, for "work arising" during the tender.

"It was a substantially lower bid and with a company that doesn't appear to have the facilities locally here coming, doing the work and beating local firms at that. We question how they are able to do that at a low margin at a low bid rate," said Kennedy.

Heddle Marine Services spokesperson Shaun Padulo said, "Heddle has met or exceeded all contractual requirements for the award."

He also said Heddle Marine Service (NL) is a separate operating entity, with facilities in Mount Pearl N.L., Sydney and Halifax.

Work to be done in Halifax Harbour

The winning bid is for 61 days of mechanical refits while CCGS Hudson is alongside its home base at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.

Work is supposed to conclude in March, with Hudson available for spring science cruises.

As for the disputed contract at its Hamilton shipyard, Padulo said the company and PSPC are "finalizing" outstanding issues.

"Although there were challenges on both sides, we are working toward an amicable resolution," he said in an email to CBC News.

The federal government has never explained what went wrong with Heddle's 2017 refit nor whether it paid the company the full $4-million contract price. Months of delays had a costly cascading effect, they have admitted.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans spent $2.5 million in 2017 chartering private vessels for scientific cruises because the Hudson was not available.

Could include fixing damage from last refit

The refit included overhauling the superstructure and masts, blasting and recoating the hull, replacing steel, repairing the rudder job and painting the 54-year-old ship.

Both Kennedy and Snow said the upcoming refit appears to include repairs for damages associated with the last one, citing bridge window repairs caused by sand-blasting debris.

Public Services and Procurement Canada did not respond to CBC questions.

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