October 06, 2016 - 11:53 AM
HALIFAX - A wooden rudder has been ordered to replace the weighty steel steering system aboard the Bluenose II, one last refit that may finally bring the saga of the ship's reconstruction to its costly conclusion.
Nova Scotia Transport Minister Geoff MacLellan said Thursday the decision has been made, with the final cost for a wooden rudder now being worked out.
A study released in March called for a replacement of the steel steering system on the replica vessel. Experts had warned the weight of the steel rudder would change the shape of Canada's sailing ambassador and shorten its life.
The ship's reconstruction has cost $23.8 million to date, and MacLellan says the overall project will end up coming in at around $25 million with the latest change.
"As it (the steel rudder) was being built and constructed there were certainly people here in Nova Scotia who were in the know who were uncomfortable with that plan," he said.
"It's come full circle. ... I'm looking forward to the day we can install this new rudder and move on."
The vessel will be about $11 million over the NDP government's first budget when it's finally complete, if the latest Liberal government estimates prove correct.
The project has been plagued by technical problems and delays of more than four years from original target dates for completion.
Last year, the auditor general released a scathing report into the effort, saying the province tasked the wrong department to oversee the project, and failed to follow basic management practices in the replica's construction.
The report said the Heritage Department didn't define the responsibilities for contractors, failed to prepare a proper budget and drafted a weak construction contract.
When the restoration was announced in 2009 by the province and Ottawa, the budget was set at $14.4 million, half of which was to come from a federal infrastructure fund.
Ottawa pitched in only $4 million because the project failed to meet Ottawa's deadlines.
The auditor said as the province scrambled to meet federal deadlines, it ignored a number of red flags about the project because it was "optimistic" that things would just work out.
A new set of problems arose when the decision was made to have the vessel comply with rules set by the American Bureau of Shipping.
In particular, the installation of a steel rudder took far longer than expected, and it was revealed the schooner's three-tonne rudder was too heavy to turn manually. A new hydraulic system was completed, adding another $350,000 to the price tag.
"This has been an issue as identified by the auditor general ... that was rushed out the door to access federal money," said MacLellan.
"This is one (project)that really that was fumbled from the get go."
The 300-tonne, 43-metre vessel was launched at Lunenburg, N.S., in 1963. It is a replica of the original Bluenose, the 1921 Grand Banks fishing schooner that won worldwide acclaim for its graceful lines and speed. The original sank after striking a reef off Haiti in 1946.
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News from © The Canadian Press, 2016