The Canadian government has approved an ambitious $9 billion worth of shipbuilding programs during the next decade, but the capability of the Canadian shipyards to handle such projects is questioned. The industry calls on the government to move ahead with major changes in its procurement policies to ensure that domestic shipyards have a steady flow of work.
"The industry sector cannot continue to survive at a capacity and capability level necessary to meet forecast government requirements without a new, focused and well-managed procurement model/approach that enhances industry infrastructure development and durability," warns the report, written in April 2006.
The navy is currently in the midst of modernizing its fleets. A project to build three Joint Support Ships is proceeding and this summer the Conservative government announced a plan to construct a fleet of Arctic patrol ships. Also in the works is a modernization of the Halifax-class frigates. In addition, the coast guard is in need of new ships. But current government policy supports a "boom and bust" cycle where shipyards build large numbers of vessels in a short period and then have to lay off their staff until the next contract comes along.
Navy and industry officials have instead been pushing for what is known as a "continuous build" policy. That would see a new ship or two built every year, stretching out construction programs over much longer periods. That would produce a more stable industry, keeping a steady flow of money coming into shipyards and allowing them to retain and train staff, according to the report.