'Complete failure' of engine sidelines 8-year-old Canadian Coast Guard vessel
The ship has been out of service since June 2020, and is expected back in service this summer
One of the Canadian Coast Guard's newer ships needs both of its engines replaced, forcing the vessel to tie up for months awaiting new motors, CBC News has learned.
The 42-metre, mid-shore patrol vessel CCGS G. Peddle, based in Halifax, is expected back in service later this year. The eight-year-old ship has been out of service since June 2020.
It is one of nine mid-shore patrol vessels built by the Irving Shipyard in Halifax at a cost of $227 million.
The two main diesel-propulsion engines will be replaced when the vessel is lifted from the water this spring for maintenance in dry dock.
As the engines are beyond warranty, the repair cost will be covered by the Canadian Coast Guard.
The vessel is expected to return to service late this summer, Stephen Bornais, a Department of Fisheries and Oceans spokesperson, said in an emailed statement.
Bornais said the prolonged absence of the CCGS Peddle has reduced capabilities, but other ships are helping in Atlantic Canada.
He said a preliminary investigation determined that a failure of internal parts contaminated lubrication oil, causing one of the engines to fail.
The day after this story was published, the coast guard sent a second statement to CBC News saying only the port-side engine broke down, contradicting information provided to bidders that both engines "experienced complete failure in 2020 and as such need to be replaced."
Bornais issued a clarification on why both engines are being replaced.
"Even though only the port-side engine failed, the decision was made to remove both engines to take advantage of the maintenance period and carry out a planned overhaul of the starboard engine," Bornais said in the new statement.
He said the coast guard considered a number of factors in replacing both engines:
- Engines of the same age are more efficient to maintain. It is easier to have major overhauls and inspections done at the same time rather than years out of sync.
- The work and cost to remove the starboard engine was only marginally higher than just doing the port-side engine, "making the removal of both engines concurrently the most-cost effective course of action."
Having main equipment fail this fast is 'unusual'
Dave Perry, a shipbuilding and ship maintenance analyst and vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, was surprised by twin engine replacements in a ship of this age.
"I think it's pretty unusual to have an engine, let alone two on the same ship, fail in that short a period of time," Perry said.
He said barring an exceptional operational incident that could damage the engines, like towing a heavier vessel beyond engine specifications, "it's a pretty unusual circumstance to have a main piece of equipment go that fast."
"I would think that one of the first kinds of things that the coast guard would be looking to do is determine whether or not there is some particular issue with the way the engines on that particular ship are maintained, or whether or not they might have a systematic problem across the other ships in that class that use the same engine," he said.
Bornais said there has been no evidence of a fleet-wide issue.
What the coast guard told bidders interested in the job
A coast guard briefing "provided bidders with some context on the double engine replacement."
The minutes have been posted as part of the tender.
"The MSPV (mid-shore patrol) class vessels were not fitted with infrastructure to remove large engine parts," minutes of the meeting show.
"A soft patch was installed for removal and installation of large engine components. The engines experienced complete failure in 2020 and as such need to be replaced. Removal requires dismantling and removal piece by piece," the minutes say.
"Soft patch" refers to a place on the vessel that can be removed to provide access to the engines.
Perry said that is not unusual that ship engines have to be removed in pieces.
"Spaces are so small and some of the pieces of equipment are so big that you can't just simply unbolt the thing and carry it up the stairs," he said.
Irving Shipbuilding did not respond to a request for comment by Monday afternoon.
Canada's mid-shore patrol vessels
The diesel engines were made by a German company that is part of Rolls-Royce Holdings.
The mid-shore fleet has had problems.
There have been persistent complaints the ships roll excessively, forcing them to stay ashore in weather conditions when they were supposed to be able to operate.
Shortly after they entered service, the ships were the subject of numerous warranty claims by the Canadian Coast Guard, including for faulty wiring, polluted water tanks, premature corrosion and a gearbox failure.
In response, Irving said the ships were built and inspected according to international and Transport Canada safety requirements.
About the Hero class
These ships are known as the Hero class since each is named for an exemplary military, RCMP, Canadian Coast Guard or DFO officer.
The Peddle is named after Gregory Peddle, a coast guard chief officer.
He and two others died in 1989 when their rescue craft capsized trying to rescue a diver in Middle Cove, N.L.
The mid-shore fleet's primary mission is fisheries enforcement and maritime security in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the Great Lakes and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The ships also provide search and rescue and pollution control.