Pandemic Throwing Wrench in Construction of New Navy, Coast Guard Ships: Officials

The centre block of the future HMCS Max Bernays is moved from the fabrication building to dockside at the Irving Shipbuilding facility in Halifax on Jan. 22, 2021.The vessel is Canada’s third Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) being built for the Royal Canadian Navy. The vessel is named for Max Bernays, who fought in the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War. Bernays was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal for his actions aboard HMCS Assiniboine 1942. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

OTTAWA—Federal civil servants say COVID-19 is throwing yet another wrench in the construction of new ships for the navy and coast guard—though the full damage won’t be known until after the pandemic.

Over the past decade, the federal government has invested billions of dollars into replacing Canada’s aging navy and coast guard fleets with dozens of new ships.

That effort has been plagued with numerous cost overruns and delays, which federal procurement department deputy minister Bill Matthews told a House of Commons committee today he blamed on overly optimistic planning at the outset of the project.

At the same time, Defence Department deputy minister Jody Thomas says work on the new vessels has also been delayed to some degree by COVID-19.

Officials insist the navy and coast guard are taking measures to ensure their existing ships can remain in the water until replacements arrive.

But Matthews says doing so will nonetheless come with “substantial” added costs.


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