A report from Canada’s Auditor General, Karen Hogan, concludes that the country’s National Shipbuilding Strategy has been slow to deliver ships to meet Canada’s domestic and international obligations.
The audit found that fleet renewal experienced many delays. Only two of four ships scheduled for delivery by January 2020 were delivered, and both were late. Although the government identified weaknesses in schedule and risk management, efforts to address them were not always effective. Delays could result in several vessels being retired before new ones are operational. National Defence and the Canadian Coast Guard have put in place measures to maintain operational capabilities until new ships are delivered, but these interim capabilities are limited and cannot be extended indefinitely.
National Defence, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada reacted to issues impacting the timely delivery of ships and adjusted the management of the strategy to place it on a more viable path. However, the impact of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic—which occurred after the audit was completed and caused work disruptions and delays in shipyards—is not yet known.
“Considering the unknown impact of the coronavirus pandemic on work in departments and shipyards, and with the bulk of new ships yet to be built, departments need to look for opportunities to further improve how they manage risks and contingencies,” said Hogan.
SHIPBUILDING IS CHALLENGING
Public Services and Procurement Canada commented:
“Given the importance of the Strategy, we welcome the Auditor General of Canada’s report and accept all of the recommendations. As the Auditor General acknowledges, shipbuilding is complex and challenging work, and we continue to seek opportunities to improve the Strategy.
“During the early years of the Strategy, initial plans and projections were not yet informed by actual build experience at the shipyards, and expertise in industry and government was developing. Many decisions taken during this period led to the establishment of schedules that we now know to be unrealistic. Today, we have a much more evidence-based and reliable understanding of the time, effort and expenditures required to build world-class vessels.
“As noted in the report, the government has made several key improvements to place the Strategy on a more viable path. We addressed important risks and developed better schedules, therefore increasing the prospect of the federal large vessel fleet being renewed in a timely manner.
“While we have made progress, the Strategy is a decades-long initiative and ongoing enhancements will be needed. We will keep working closely with our shipyard partners so that ships can be delivered as quickly as possible and important socio-economic benefits and jobs continue to be provided for Canada.”