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Ottawa will have to pay to repair its new ships in the Arctic



(Ottawa) Canadian taxpayers will have to pay for engine repairs to at least two of the Royal Canadian Navy’s new Arctic patrol ships.

Defense Department Deputy Minister Bill Matthews explained that the situation resulted from the expiration of the one-year warranty on both vessels. He announced the news during an appearance before the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on Monday, shortly before the department reported that repairs would take longer than expected.

“The warranty on the (Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels) is one year after commissioning,” said Matthews. You have two ships that are past that point by a year. So, by reading only the guarantee, it would be up to National Defense to pay. »

This is another blow to Canada’s ailing military supply system, which is struggling to deliver new, functional equipment to the Canadian Armed Forces without delays or cost overruns.

The Canadian Press revealed last week that Ottawa was also responsible for repairs to Royal Canadian Air Force Cyclone helicopters, one of which crashed off Greece in 2020.

Six members of the Armed Forces died in the accident.

The federal government plans to purchase eight Arctic patrol vessels from Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax, including six for the Navy and two for the Canadian Coast Guard.

Ottawa pays $5 billion for warships and $1.6 billion for Coast Guard ships.

Three of the ships have been delivered, starting with HMCS Harry DeWolf in July 2020, which Navy commanders touted as the start of a new era. HMCS Margaret Brooke was delivered in July 2021 and HMCS Max Bernays in September 2022.

But Mr Matthews told a parliamentary committee on Monday that it would be up to Irving to fix the problems with the third ship and all the others, as they are still covered by warranty.

He also appeared to leave open the possibility of trying to recoup some of the repair costs from Irving, saying he wanted to look closely at the results of a technical investigation into the issues affecting the ships.

“If you read the warranty to the letter, it’s in our hands,” he said. But I want to take a look at the technical report. »

The latest problems on Arctic patrol ships came in August, when HMCS Harry DeWolf was forced to cancel a planned training exercise in the Far North and return home to Halifax due to a generator failure.

A technical survey of the ships was only recently completed, and preliminary reports eventually pointed to problems with the ships’ engine cooling and potable water systems, the costs of which have skyrocketed since the first Minister Stephen Harper first announced his intention to build the fleet in 2007.

Ongoing negotiations

Defense Ministry spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said the full investigation, which was launched in September and completed last month, confirmed the root causes of the problem with the engine cooling system.

Officials are currently working to resolve the issues, which will include flushing the four main diesel generators that provide the ships’ power and propulsion after the engines have been repaired.

Mme Lamirande did not specify the cost of the repairs, but she said the Ministry of Defense was unlikely to meet its original schedule for relaunching HMCS Harry DeWolf and HMCS Margaret Brooke by April. .

Repairs are also underway to the system used to supply drinking water, which had high levels of lead due to the alloys used on some fittings and valves. Due to this problem, the crew members had to be provided with bottled water.

Negotiations are underway between the government and Irving on the cost of these repairs, said Lamiranda.

Mr Matthews was appearing before the Public Accounts Committee as he led hearings on an Auditor General’s report last year that found significant shortcomings in Canada’s ability to monitor and control its Arctic waters.

MPs have repeatedly pressed Mr Matthews for more details on reports that China has deployed monitoring buoys in Canadian Arctic waters. He declined to answer for national security reasons.

Deputy Auditor General Andrew Hayes told MPs that the MoD failed to inform its staff of the buoys, the existence of which became public knowledge just weeks after a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over the Canadian airspace.

Hayes would not comment on the balloon or the buoys, but reiterated the urgent need to fill gaps in Canada’s Arctic surveillance capabilities.

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