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.

Just Posted

In photos: The 27th Annual Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival

Images from Friday evening and Saturday at the festival grounds.

Summerland cannabis shop receives approval in principle

Inspection now required before Green Gaia may sell cannabis

North Okanagan-Shuswap Liberal candidate responds to Trudeau ethics report

Prime Minister’s immediate response to commissioner’s findings appreciated

Shuswap tow truck operator sees high number of collisions this summer

Drivers encouraged to “loosen up behind the wheel, smarten up and read the road”

VIDEO: Langley Ribfest met with protesters

Groups that oppose the event for various reasons plan to be on site each of the three days.

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after B.C. Mountie’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Retrieved body from Okanagan Lake identified as missing kayaker

Zygmunt Janiewicz had been missing since May and was recovered Aug. 10

Paddleboard festival coming soon to Kalamalka Lake

Wildfire smoke got in the way of last year’s event, but conditions look better this summer

Most Read