Nova Scotia

Software glitch damages part of new Canadian science vessel

A software malfunction is being blamed for damaging a critical piece of equipment on board Canada's new offshore fisheries science vessel, Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir John Franklin.

Spooling gear on a winch started moving on its own in the middle of the night

The offshore fisheries science vessel Sir John Franklin, which was entirely designed and built on B.C.'s North Shore, is part of the national shipbuilding program. (Christer Waara/CBC)

A software malfunction is being blamed for damaging a critical piece of equipment on board Canada's new offshore fisheries science vessel, Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir John Franklin.

Spooling gear on the starboard trawl winch took off on its own. The winch is used to retrieve heavy gear and nets deployed to gather ocean climate data and fish stocks on board the B.C.-based vessel.

The coast guard said the damaged part will be replaced and the winch repaired when the ship heads into planned maintenance next month.

At the time of the malfunction, no personnel was in the vicinity, spokesperson Benoit Mayrand wrote in an email to CBC News.

An official with the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees said the malfunction occurred in the middle of the night during a patrol last November.

Repairs will be covered by warranty

"The shipyard is aware of the issue and is taking responsibility and will complete the repairs under warranty," Mayrand said.

Franklin was the first large ship built under Canada's national shipbuilding strategy and it was delivered last June.

Seaspan Shipyard in Vancouver was awarded the contract to build three offshore fisheries science vessels in a $687-million project. CCGS Jacques Cartier, which will be based in Halifax, was turned over to the coast guard last November.

The third vessel, the John Cabot, is expected to be delivered this summer and will be based in St. John's.

Seaspan said the sophisticated software and systems on its vessels are tested and approved by independent third parties before delivery.

Workers in North Vancouver gather at the unveiling of the Sir John Franklin offshore fisheries science vessel on Dec. 8, 2017. (Seaspan)

"As with all large, complex systems, it is not uncommon for minor software anomalies to occur. These are addressed in routine maintenance windows. This is a minor issue isolated to the Sir John Franklin," spokesperson Amy MacLeod wrote in an email to CBC.

Last March, Franklin struck a breakwater as it was returning from its first week of sea trials.

Cabot will be delivered on time

To ensure the ship met its June delivery date, the rudder and propeller were removed from the third offshore science vessel, the John Cabot, and installed on Franklin.

"There are no delays to the delivery of the CCGS John Cabot due to the breakwater incident and no financial implications for the Government of Canada," Mayrand said.

No parts were needed from the Cabot to repair the Franklin starboard trawl winch.

In 2018, CBC News revealed portions of the Franklin hull were re-welded after an inspection uncovered a series of defective joints.

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Paul Withers

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Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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