J’ai mal à mon Saint-Laurent
My Saint Lawrence River hurts
Par Pierre Terrien
Éditeur, Maritime Magazine www.maritimemag.com
Not an image we like to see. Alas, in recent years, the story seems to be repeated every winter on the St. Lawrence. However, winter navigation on the St. Lawrence to Montreal was established permanently in 1964!
The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), which is responsible for keeping the channel open with its icebreakers, is regularly singled out for this deplorable situation, a major irritant for the economy. Losses for the marine industry and foreign trading partners have already been estimated at more than 100,000 per vessel for every 24 hours late. Yet, following the long-running cost recovery debate of the Mulroney era (1988-93), under the Oceans Act, "All domestic and foreign flag vessels transiting through an ice zone are subject to the same rate of 3100 per transit ".
To better understand why we are not able to provide a service properly that is billed to shipowners, one must refer to the cuts in CCG’s ship acquisition budgets over the last twenty years, but even worse, if we look at the National Shipbuilding Strategy developed by the Harper Government in 2010, we see absolutely nothing about average icebreakers that are sorely lacking on the St. Lawrence and will be shortly in the Canadian arctic. On the other hand, we find a polar icebreaker whose need is in no way demonstrated and which will surely swallow some billions of dollars. And then, the Seaspan yard in Vancouver, chosen for this contract and many others, would have to be able to build it. Their roadmap is not very eloquent to date. The first of three ocean sciences offshore vessels that they have been mandated to build since 2017 has been launched, but is not delivered because the hull welds are deficient. As for the two joint support ships also ordered in 2017 at the same yard, their construction is postponed from year to year because the yard is not able to build them. Meanwhile, Davie Shipbuilding, which had been deemed unfit to build these boats by the National Shipbuilding Strategy Office, had time to make an unsolicited proposal to the Canadian government resulting in a very timely containership transformation into a Joint Support Ship, at a very competitive price. The ship, the Asterix, has just completed its first year of operation. See link here.
This brief glimpse into the chaotic state of shipbuilding in Canada doesn’t delve into irregularities at Irving Shipbuilding, the other Canadian shipyard chosen to execute most of Canada’s shipbuilding strategy. Suffice it to say that the first of six Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships ordered at the Halifax Shipyard failed the Transport Canada inspection.
The most difficult thing to understand about the Trudeau government’s inaction on this alarming situation is that all the ingredients are in place to implement a solution. There is a budget for the construction of icebreakers (in addition to the mega-project of a polar icebreaker, which some sources close to the issue have reported it is dying), and there is a building site available as we speak that has proven itself in the construction of icebreakers in the past and has already made interesting proposals to the government to act quickly and at very competitive prices.
In the hope that good will and pragmatism will prevail and that next year at this date we will not have to submit a report as distressing as this: to the best of our knowledge:
January 25, 2019:
Waiting for departure from Montreal to the sea -Oceanex Avalon -Maersk Palermo -MSC Ans
-MSC Tamara -MSC Carmen -Happy Ranger
Waiting for departure from Sorel to the sea -Leila H
Awaiting departure from Trois-Rivières to Montreal -Oceanex Connaigra -Algoma Mariner
Waiting for departure from Port Alfred for the sea
- Calvina CS
- Golden Opal
Going up in the Saguenay
North Montreal -Blacky -With the icebreaker Louis St-Laurent finally arrived from Newfoundland 3 ships going to Montreal in standby at Les Escoumins.