Oldest ship in Canadian Coast Guard fleet out of action until 2020
Repair work to CCGS Hudson was supposed to done by this fall, but additional repairs will keep it docked
For the second time in three years, Canada is hiring private charters to help carry out its fall oceanographic science missions on the East Coast because the oldest ship in the Canadian Coast Guard fleet is undergoing a refit to prolong its life.
The replacements are for three regularly scheduled fall cruises that gather biological, chemical and physical ocean data.
The trips are part of a monitoring program that in recent years has documented record warm temperatures in the Atlantic.
The missions are usually carried out on board CCGS Hudson, but Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the 56-year old ship will be out of service until April 2020.
"Fisheries and Oceans Canada is making arrangements to deliver our science at-sea missions on alternative vessels; through both the Canadian Coast Guard and private charters," Jocelyn Lubczuk, press secretary for federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, said in a statement.
A March press release said the maintenance refit to repair decks and tanks, and replace steel would be completed this fall.
This is the first time Ottawa has publicly stated the work will not end with the $10-million contract awarded to St. John's Dockyard Ltd. in February.
More work needed on Hudson
However, Lubczuk said doing more work after the refit was always planned.
"The announcement that was made in March was for the dry docking contract," she said. "Public Services and Procurement Canada will soon open a competitive tendering process for the alongside."
Lubczuk said the work underway in St. John's is proceeding on schedule.
What the Hudson does at sea
With the Hudson out of service, the government needs a platform for missions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off Nova Scotia, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.
The cruises occur twice yearly under the Atlantic Zone Monitoring Program, which has been running since 1998.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada found alternatives for the spring survey, including chartering Coriolis II, a science vessel operated by the Institute of Marine Sciences in Rimouski, Que. The vessel is regularly hired by the department for science missions.
Halifax-based Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientist Dave Hebert does not know when or if a vessel will be found for the mission normally scheduled for September off Nova Scotia.
"It could be any stage of the process. Until the contract is actually awarded, we're not informed if there's a vessel for that time period," he said.
Chartering other vessels
Hebert hopes the upcoming procurement will streamline the process of chartering vessels, which has become increasingly necessary as the Canadian Coast Guard fleet ages:
- In the fall of 2017, Fisheries and Oceans Canada spent $2.58 million to charter three vessels because the Hudson was unavailable when the first phase of its life extension refit ran months late at a Hamilton shipyard.
- In 2018, it spent $290,000 chartering an offshore fishing trawler because two other Atlantic-based coast guard ships were out of commission on extended refits.
With the refit, the coast guard is hoping to squeeze at least another five years of service out of Hudson while it waits for a replacement to be built at Vancouver's Seaspan Shipyards.
Hebert said when completed, the Hudson life extension will provide much more stability.
"Once we have our own ship and we know we have it, then it's done. We don't have this problem of not knowing things. But given that it's an old ship and it has to get work done on it to be able to sail, it puts uncertainty on whether we go," he said.
Lubczuk said the plight of the Hudson "underscores" the need for the $15.7 billion in spending the coast guard announced last week in Vancouver by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Part of the spending includes up to $2 billion on extending the life of existing vessels.