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Dec 04

Holy Batfish, Canadian government! Plus possibly big Canadian Coast Guard news. This slipped through the sonar until I saw it at Tom Fries’ indispensable “The Arctic This Week“, from the Arctic Institute (Washington, D.C.):

…On the other side of the ledger, poor Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, Nova Scotia saw both the sudden departure this week of its president (, in French) and a withering analysis of its ability to stay competitive in the modern military shipbuilding industry that, though I am no expert, has the ring of truth to it (Chronicle Herald)…

From the Chronicle Herald story:

Expert: Irving needs to transform yard
Firm faces challenge in deal to build modern warships

Whoever takes the helm of Irving Shipbuilding Inc. will need to transform it from a repair yard to one that can produce modern warships, says a Halifax defence expert.

Steve Durrell’s sudden departure from the president’s post earlier this week may signal an abrupt course change at the company that inked a $25-billion umbrella agreement with Ottawa earlier this year to build new warships over the next three decades, said Ken Hansen, resident research fellow at Dalhousie University’s centre for foreign policy studies.

“Modern warship construction is not the same as refit work, not by a long shot,” said Hansen, a former naval commander…

There’s a memorandum to cabinet at the Prime Minister’s Office right now written by senior coast guard executives about arming the coast guard, Hansen said [italics added, that’s big news, see also:”Possible Arming of Canadian Coast Guard: Not Exactly News…“]. “If that happens, then the requirement for the navy in the Arctic diminishes. It doesn’t go away, but it diminishes because the coast guard can take care of most of the constabulary stuff up there [see “Guess What? RCN’s Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship Not a Real Warship, or, the Constabulary Navy“]. So the need for a small, navy, ice-capable ship is gone and the coast guard has no use for the Arctic and offshore patrol ship [see ‘RCN’s Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships Just “window dressing”‘].

“It’s too small for them, with too small a fuel load. So they would not be interested in that ship. If that does get killed what they do want is more polar-class ice breakers, and those are being built on the west coast.”

That could mean moving about $3.2 billion worth of work to B.C. to build Diefenbaker-class ice breakers, he said [more on icebreakers here, one has little more confidence in Seaspan, Vancouver, than in Irving].

“Then the question becomes, what does Irving do before it builds the new frigates? And they must do something. They cannot go directly to building frigates. It’s not possible [those are the Canadian Surface Combatant, see end of this post and “Comments”].

“Their shipyard needs to be recapitalized and modernized. So they need an interim project which the arctic and offshore patrol ship was supposed to be.”

Irving said this week that it’s planning to start building eight of the 6,500-ton ships in 2015…

As a well-informed friend remarks:

Ever been to the Irving yard? It’s like a small town gas station, only with frigates and destroyers instead of pickup trucks.

Very relevant:

National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy: Choppy Waters Ahead?

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

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