July 30, 2014 3:40 pm

Veteran shipbuilder: Province taking ownership of Bluenose II a ‘big mistake’

Bluenose II heads to port in Lunenburg, N.S. after sea trials on June 24, 2014.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

HALIFAX – The Bluenose II has been formally handed over to the Nova Scotia government in a move a veteran local shipbuilder calls the province’s “biggest mistake yet.”

Lou Boudreau, whose company builds tall ships, says he’s concerned about potential safety issues with the work being done on the schooner’s new steering system.

“The rudder is going to fail,” he said. “We just hope that it won’t fail at a very inopportune time and injury or kill someone.”

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READ MORE: 4 things you didn’t know are sending the Bluenose II project awry

Boudreau has been after the government to stop the restoration of the Bluenose II for months until they can have the project fully assessed.

The project has been marred by delays and cost overruns, and has also encountered problems, including issues with its rudder that will likely prevent it from sailing this summer.

“It’s just been a mad rush by the government to put a band-aid on it to get it sailing,” Boudreau said. “But that’s not how it works.”

The vessel, which has been berthed for the past two years at the Lunenburg Foundry dock, has been moved to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic in Lunenburg.

The province says the schooner is undergoing finishing touches by the builder and the move will allow people to view the boat from the waterfront, take close-up photos and chat with the crew.

READ MORE: Darrow says safety ‘number one concern’ for Bluenose II project

David Darrow, the man whom the government put in charge of the project, says the cost of the new steering system is “between $10,000 and $1 million”.

Karla MacFarlane, the Progressive Conservative tourism critic, says she is shocked by the Liberal government’s decision to take possession of the Bluenose II without telling Nova Scotians how much it cost.

“This is a slap in the face to taxpayers,” she said. “We want to get it sailing as much as anyone, but after nearly a year of incompetent Liberal decision making, we are left wondering how much more taxpayers will have to withstand.”

Even though the ship isn’t moving, the province has confirmed a crew of between 12 and 18 people has been hired for the vessel.

Boudreau says it would be cheaper to build a new vessel rather than continuing to pour money into the Bluenose II.

Four years ago, his company offered to build a similar ship for less than $10 million.

“Certainly we could have had two of them out, racing two years ago with a lot of money left over for beer and pizza,” he said.

When the restoration was announced in 2009, the provincial government at the time estimated it would cost $14.4 million.

As of last month, costs have reached $19 million.

With files from The Canadian Press

© Shaw Media, 2014

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