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$11M in repairs for sabotaged CCGS Corporal McLaren unlikely to begin until at least 2021

Click to play video: '‘Substantial,’ expensive repairs of sabotaged Canadian Coast Guard vessel could take years: expert'
‘Substantial,’ expensive repairs of sabotaged Canadian Coast Guard vessel could take years: expert
WATCH (Aug. 2019): Global News has learned that a Canadian Coast Guard vessel sabotaged nine months ago will undergo expensive and lengthy repairs. Alexander Quon brings us this exclusive – Aug 14, 2019

It’s been nearly two years since an unknown party walked onto one of the Canadian Coast Guard‘s Hero-class patrol vessels, cut it free from its moorings and caused it to sink to the ocean floor, partially submerging it in the icy waters of Sambro Harbour.

It was sabotage and despite CCGS Corporal McLaren being refloated and moved to the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Halifax, very little work has been done to repair the damage the vessel suffered in November 2018.

Investigators are no closer to finding the individual or individuals responsible, and the repair bill is estimated at $11 million.

But new internal emails released under a federal access to information request and tender documents reviewed by Global Halifax indicate that those repairs are unlikely to begin until at least 2021.

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Timothy Hiu-Tung Choi, a doctoral student at the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military and Strategic Studies specializing in maritime security and the Canadian navy, said that with the extra time needed to issue tenders for various equipment and for repairs to be performed it’ll likely be “well into 2022 at least” when the vessel actually returns to service.

The sabotage of CCGS Corporal McLaren

In November 2018, the 42.8-metre patrol vessel was moored at the Canadian Maritime Engineering dockyard in Sambro, N.S., where it was meant to undergo a month-long refit.

But that refit never happened after someone walked onto the dockyard — there was no fencing surrounding the compound — and using a power tool, possibly an angle grinder, cut the primary cable and backup line keeping CCGS Corporal McLaren in its berth.

The remaining anchors snapped, with power cables being torn from the vessel as it slid into the water.

Internal emails obtained by Global News in 2019 indicate that security cameras at the shipyard had been unreliable in providing any leads about the saboteur.

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No arrests have been made and Halifax Regional Police said earlier this year their investigation into the incident has concluded as “all investigative avenues have been exhausted at this time.”

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Click to play video: 'Few leads as sabotaged Canadian Coast Guard vessel remains unrepaired in Nova Scotia'
Few leads as sabotaged Canadian Coast Guard vessel remains unrepaired in Nova Scotia

Internal emails between Department of Fisheries employees show that on Feb. 10, 2019, another second and previously unreported break-in occurred, just months after the initial sabotage.

The emails say two men were spotted running from the vessel at approximately 5:15 a.m., by security. No vehicle was spotted and security didn’t get a good enough look to describe them.

Although much of the ensuing conversation about the incident is redacted citing solicitor-client privilege, there was no additional damage reported and no items were removed.

The vessel was patched and towed to the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in August 2019. It remains there waiting to be repaired.

Clean up to begin next month

Earlier this month the federal government issued a tender for the clean-up of CCGS McLaren after the sabotage, which the government refers to as a “major flooding incident.”

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According to the notice of proposed procurement, the end goal is to complete a “major rebuild” involving the “replacement of nearly the entire electrical system, much of the mechanical systems and a rebuild of the accommodations as well as the spaces located on the lower and main decks, which were submerged in water.”

Choi said the tender confirms the scope of the damage the vessel endured when it was sabotaged.

“Basically everything that turns a metal box into a ship will need to be replaced,” he said.

“Electrical, engineering and accommodations all appear to need replacement in full.”

But first, the government is looking to remove all “contaminated porous materials, mould, fuel, oil or other contaminants” that are still on board the vessel to allow for safe access to all spaces of CCGS McLaren that are in need of repair.

A spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans told Global News they are looking to award that contract by mid-September.

According to documents, the proponent who is awarded the contract for the cleaning must finish the work within four months.

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“After the vessel cleaning has been completed, (the Canadian Coast Guard) will be in a better position to refine the estimated cost of repairs,” said Stephen Bornais, a spokesperson for the Canadian Coast Guard.

Click to play video: 'Salvage team moving cautiously on recovery of sabotaged coast guard ship'
Salvage team moving cautiously on recovery of sabotaged coast guard ship

A damage assessment will then be carried out with a tender for the repairs finally being issued after that. A timeline for the full repairs and getting CCGS McLaren back into service will follow.

As Choi told Global News that means it will be late into 2022 by the time the vessel is back into service.

“The process from the time McLaren was refloated to when she’ll return to service will likely exceed the time, if not cost, required for her original construction,” Choi said.

“[Compare] that to the three years between the 2009 contract award for the class and the 2012 in-service date of the first of (the Hero-class).”

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