Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Budget Shoals claim UVic's ship

Rendering of UVic's research ship
The University of Victoria much heralded planned "new" ship, dedicated to research, has fallen victim to budgets. The ex Canadian Coast Guard vessel, Tsekoa II, was obtained from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for the project. Grandiose plans to cut it, stretch it, and rework the entire propulsion system to a complex hybrid system, proved too much to swallow, financially, and the project has collapse under its own weight.

Inquiries to the project managers, were referred to the University of Victoria, which did not issue any official comments on the matter, following multiple request. So obviously, as a simpleton blogger, its hard to confirm the exact status of the project and why. My sources indicate the provincial funding was cancelled, and the matching funding from the Federal government was conditional on the provincial. The resulting gap was too large for the University to bear. I understand the vessel will probably be sold.

Much innovative work on the design for the new propulsion system was done by local west coast Naval Architects and Marine Engineering firms. On the propulsion side, this vessel would have showcased some pretty advanced "Made in BC, Canada" propulsion concepts, with names like Ballard Power, Techsol Marine, Corvus, Tactical Marine, etc, involved in the project.

Ultimately the majority of the funding for the project was in the initial capital required to implement the various high technologies envisioned for the vessel. But at the end of the day, the operating cost are what get you, and I understand this was an area that UVic was faltering on.

MV Tsekoa II in better days
UVic had long been rumoured to be on the look out for a research vessel to support the Venus and Neptune projects, as well as other scientific projects. The lack of availability of these types of vessels, in particular from the Federal Government, through the Canadian Coast Guard, was a driving factor in the original idea for the Tsekoa II. I would imagine, with that in mind, the loss of the Tsekoa II project is even more stinging to the scientific community.

I understand the design was nearly completed, and bidding by the yards was underway. With the NSPS stuck in the mud, one must wonder if this small project is a preview of the status of publicly funded shipbuilding in Canada, as the world economy slides back into a recession. You can read the original plans for the vessel, issued by UVic about one year ago.

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Update :  I had the article written several days before actually publishing it, in hopes UVic would issue a statement in time.  Well they did, but a couple of hours after the article had been already published on schedule; thems are the breaks.

According to the latest press release, by UVic on the Tsekoa II, the project is dead. The vessel will be sold off. As you can read, UVic is putting on a brave face, saying they will continue on with the "Green" project, but not with the Tsekoa II plans. The failure of the project is being attributed to higher than expected bids for the conversion. Damn those shipyards ! First the JSS, now the Tsekoa II.

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