Storied Canadian science vessel breaks down — again

·3 min read
CCGS Hudson, pictured Wednesday in St. John's, is tied up while the coast guard figures out how to fix it. (CBC - image credit)
CCGS Hudson, pictured Wednesday in St. John's, is tied up while the coast guard figures out how to fix it. (CBC - image credit)

More mechanical problems have knocked Canada's East Coast ocean science vessel CCGS Hudson out of service for a second time this year, CBC News has learned.

This time there was a failure in its starboard electrical propulsion motor.

The latest problem — an unidentified electrical fault in the motor — was discovered as the 58-year-old ship tied up in St. John's on Nov. 5, where it has remained while the Canadian Coast Guard tries to figure out why it happened and how to fix it.

"On-site evaluations of the motor are underway, which have kept the vessel out of service. Work is underway to identify the cause and remediate the problem," coast guard spokesperson Stephen Bornais said in an email response to CBC News questions.

"The coast guard is examining a variety of solutions, the results of which will determine next steps. It is too early at this time to confirm whether or not a dry-dock period will be required."

In May, a generator failure aboard the Hudson, which is Canada's oldest science research vessel, forced it to curtail one mission and cancel another.

Climate change mission scrubbed

The new electrical issue prompted the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to cancel its fall science mission off Newfoundland and Labrador.

The mission is part of the Atlantic Zone Monitoring Program, which provides annual detailed oceanographic and biological data for monitoring changes in the environment caused by climate change and other oceanographic drivers. The results are used in the assessment of fish stocks to explain changes other than those caused by fishing.

The motor problem also delayed recovery of moorings in the Cabot Strait used to monitor the endangered North Atlantic right whale. The coast guard is looking for another ship to carry out that work.

It is not clear whether the Hudson will be available for its spring ocean climate monitoring mission off Nova Scotia.

The ship was scheduled for a planned refit this month.

Struggle to keep ship in service

This is the latest setback for the storied vessel. In 1970, it became the first ship to circumnavigate both North America and South America.

The coast guard is trying to keep Hudson in service until 2024, when a $966-million offshore oceanographic science vessel is expected out of the Seaspan shipyard in Vancouver.

Keeping the ship at sea has been a challenge. Canada has spent more than $33 million on various refits and repairs in the last nine years.

Most of the money has been spent since 2016 when the Hudson began a life-extension program that saw it spend three out of four years in refit.

After repairs to the generator were completed this spring, the coast guard said the ship was in good condition and met all Transport Canada regulatory requirements and certification standards from the American Bureau of Shipping.

The coast guard also acknowledged — but declined to identify — concerns brought forward by DFO scientists about the condition of the vessel.

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