Feds aiming to select preferred design for $60B warships by end of month

Defence insiders say the government wants to select a design by the end of the month from among three options submitted by several of the largest defence and shipbuilding companies in the world.

Canada’s most expensive military project is entering a critical new phase as the government is on the verge of picking its top design for the country’s $60-billion fleet of new warships.

Defence insiders say the government wants to select a design by the end of the month from among three options submitted by several of the largest defence and shipbuilding companies in the world.

After that the government and Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding, which will actually build the 15 new warships, will sit down with the selected bidder to hammer out the final cost and other details.

The stakes will be high for both sides, with hundreds of millions of dollars in play.

There will also be pressure to make up for lost time on a project already running behind schedule even though whatever decisions are taken could have ramifications on the navy — and taxpayers — for decades to come.

“That’s part of the tension between moving quickly and making the right choice,” said defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

READ MORE: Potentially hazardous mould found in Canadian warship

READ MORE: Halifax shipyard says warship ‘gap’ could result in layoffs without federal help

The new warships will replace the navy’s 12 frigates and three destroyers, the latter of which have already been retired. They will be used for most of this century.

Launched in late 2016, the design competition has been the subject of rampant lobbying and complaints by defence industry players, with numerous revisions to the original request for bids and several deadline extensions.

That was despite defence officials and Irving having previously warned that time is of the essence when it comes to starting construction, and that they want to shave 18 to 24 months off the project.

There have also been questions about Irving’s role in the competition, and anger from some companies that British firm BAE was allowed to enter its Type 26 vessel despite the ship having never been built.

BAE and U.S.-based defence giant Lockheed Martin partnered together to propose the Type 26 for the design competition, which is up against separate proposals from Dutch firm Alion and Spanish shipbuilder Navantia.

A joint French-Italian design was disqualified because Paris-based Naval Group and Italian firm Fincantieri, who promised to build the warships faster and for less than anyone else, did not follow the established process for submitting proposals.

One of the big questions heading into the negotiations will be how much the selected design needs to be changed to reflect the navy’s needs and how much the navy will have to shift its requirements because changing the design will take more time and money.

Irving has warned that it could be forced to lay off hundreds of employees because of a production gap if work on the warships isn’t ready to start by the time it finishes building the navy’s new Arctic patrol ships in 2021 or 2022.

Government negotiators are also facing a battle over the amount of intellectual property that the top bidder will be required to hand over, which Ottawa wants so it can operate and maintain the vessels on its own after they are built.

Companies had originally been told that the winner would be required to turn over the full blueprints, but after significant resistance, the two sides agreed that the matter would be negotiated before a contract is awarded.

The government however warned that if the winning ship designer drives too hard a bargain on the intellectual property front they face the risk of officials pulling the plug on talks and moving on to the next company.

Perry said that while there are many challenges ahead before a deal for a design is signed — and before any of the new warships actually get into the water — this is a critical step forward.

“You can’t dance until you pick a dance partner,” he said.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Harrison officials carefully monitoring E.coli levels in lagoon

Levels testing unusually high for this time of year, officials say

Chilliwack RCMP heard gunfire en route to suspicous activity

Chilliwack man, 42, sent to hospital after shooting, RCMP have confirmed

Hundreds fill Chilliwack streets for Black Lives Matter march

‘Canada has a problem too,’ reads at least one protester’s sign

IHIT names homicide victim found in the Fraser Canyon this week

Police asking for tips into the suspicious death of 29-year-old Alicia Berg

Flock on vacation

The sun sets over Harrison and its feathered residents

Trudeau offers $14B to provinces for anti-COVID-19 efforts through rest of year

Making a difference in municipalities is a pricey proposition

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Friends, family mourn Salt Spring Island woman killed in suspected murder-suicide

A GoFundMe comapaign has been launched for Jennifer Quesnel’s three sons

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

‘Alarmed’: Health critic calls for more data on COVID-19 in trucking industry

Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec said that level of detail is not being collected

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Most Read