There is more evidence suggesting Canadian coast guard mid-shore patrol vessels are a fair-weather fleet.
Documents obtained by CBC News show that during a one-year period, two mid-shore patrol vessels based in Nova Scotia were tied up for 151 days in weather conditions when they were supposed to be operable.
Last month, CBC revealed the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is looking at installing stabilizers — blades that counteract the motion of waves — on its nine coast guard mid-shore vessels. This followed widespread complaints from crew about excessive rolling at sea.
Michael Grace, DFO’s offshore surveillance supervisor, looked at sea conditions during the 165 days when two mid-shore vessels based in Nova Scotia were in port or anchored — from April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018.
His briefing table on the “probabilities the vessels were being anchored based on wind speeds and sea conditions” was released to CBC under the Access to Information Act.
“The vessels frequently did not operate in winds in excess of 20 knots, sea states under 2 metres,” the table compiled by Grace states.
In March 2018, the Dartmouth-based supervisor delivered the presentation at a joint management meeting of officials with the Canadian Coast Guard and DFO in Vancouver.
DFO official studies wind speed, sea state
The vessels, which are 42 metres long and seven metres wide, are known as the Hero class since each is named after an exemplary military, RCMP, coast guard or DFO officer.
According to minutes of the meeting, Grace looked at wind speeds and sea conditions when the CCGS G Peddle and CCGS Corporal McLaren were ashore.
“The reported weather and sea state condition outlined in the table indicates that up to 91.5% of the in port/anchored time occurred within the stated operating parameters of the MSVP.”
For primary missions in the Atlantic, like fishery patrols, the vessel is expected to sail in what is known as Sea State 5, which is three-metre seas and winds averaging 24 knots.
According to the table, “28.6% of the port/anchored time took place in weather conditions with winds of less than 20 knots and a sea state of 0.5 to 2.0 metres.”
Coast guard: no response
The Canadian Coast Guard did not comment on Grace’s report when contacted by CBC News.
The CCGS Corporal McLaren is shown in 2016. DFO’s offshore surveillance supervisor looked at wind speeds and sea conditions when the CCGS Corporal McLaren and another ship were ashore. (Canadian Coast Guard)
It has previously said some program tasks are delayed while vessels are in port, but they are still operational and available for other tasks such as search and rescue.
The ships are expected to be operational for about 300 days a year.
The Coast Guard said the vessels are safe and stable.
They were built at the Irving shipyard in Halifax at a cost of $227 million.
Frustration level high over other safety concerns
Grace was one of 24 participants at the Vancouver meeting.
So was Fred Emeneau, commanding officer of the the CCGS Peddle.
In the minutes, Emeneau said “G. Peddle was not used a lot due to sea conditions” during the 2017/2018 season.
But downtime was not the only concern raised.
Minutes reflect repeated complaints about the deployment of the rigid-hull inflatable boats carried on board the mid-shore vessels.
Brent Napier, DFO’S chief of enforcement operations, said in the minutes: “After discussing the same problem for several years, the frustration level is high.
“C&P Senior management and Regions are very concerned by long standing issue and ask that a solution be found as soon as possible to mitigate safety concerns.”
The minutes refer to the risk of a foot getting caught or struck by metal bars when the inflatable boats are being launched or retrieved.