More problems surface in troubled refit of coast guard vessel

There are new setbacks, delays and costs in the life-extension refit of the storied Canadian Coast Guard Ship Hudson.

As the refit runs late, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is searching for a replacement vessel to carry out ocean climate science missions on the East Coast in the first half of 2020.

Asbestos and deficient parts were discovered inside the 56-year-old ocean science vessel, pushing back completion of the work for a second time.

"We're looking at a short delay now for a couple of months," said Gary Ivany, the assistant commissioner of the coast guard's Atlantic region.

The refit was already six months late before the latest problems surfaced.

Refit contract amended to add $1.3M to bill

Federal procurement documents also show the cost of the job has jumped to $11.4 million, up by $1.3 million.

The reason for the hike is unclear after the original contract was amended last month without explanation.

Hudson, Canada's oldest coast guard ship, was sent to NewDock, a St. John's shipyard in February for a $10-million refit.

It was supposed to be back in service at its base at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, N.S., this fall, but that was delayed after lead paint was discovered when the ship was hauled out of the water and opened up.

The refit has been delayed again after the yard encountered more problems.

They don't make those parts anymore

Work stopped temporarily to remove asbestos wrapped around piping in the exhaust stack.

NewDock is also waiting for replacement parts needed in heating, ventilation and air conditioning units, Ivany said.

"We're really hoping that it's going to be back in a couple of months after the planned April 1st timeline," he said.

Some of the parts to be replaced are original to 1963 and are no longer manufactured. Others are more recent and failed unexpectedly.

Canadian scientists again looking for a ride

"It's not the best news," said Alain Vézina, the Maritimes region science director at DFO.

"We're working very hard with a whole department approach to find solutions to ensure we deliver the high-priority programs in the coming spring and maybe a little bit later in the year as well, because the return date is a bit uncertain at this stage."

The delay over lead paint forced the cancellation of the fall Atlantic zone monitoring mission for the first time ever because the department could not find a vessel capable of handling the rough weather.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Hudson is Canada's Atlantic Ocean science workhorse.

For decades, the ship has carried out a wide variety of monitoring missions throughout the year from the Scotian Shelf to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and north to the Labrador Sea.

The mission includes continuous climate science to measure and prepare for the impact of climate change, helping to manage commercial fish stocks and meeting Canada's international commitments to monitor the North Atlantic.

"We need to recover that instrumentation, download the data, put them back in again. We also do work from vessels in deepwater to understand how the deepwaters are influenced by climate," said Vézina.

Canada is obliged to collect data from instruments in the water belonging to partner countries, in the United States or European Union.

"So we have to find a platform and go in to recover that instrumentation, so we're committed to doing that. That's an absolute priority," he said.

Aging fleet

Hudson is hardly the only aging vessel in the coast guard fleet, according to information DFO presented to industry earlier this year.

DFO said 16 of 21 coast guard vessels used for science as of 2019 are older than their 25-year "operational lifespan."

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