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Coast guard's $227M ships rock 'like crazy,' making crews seasick, unable to work

Canada's $227-million fleet of mid-shore coast guard vessels are rolling "like crazy" at sea, making crews seasick and keeping some ships in port during weather conditions where they should be able to operate, CBC News has learned.  Canadian Coast Guard records and correspondence obtained under federal access to information legislation raise questions about the patrol vessels' seagoing capability and reveal a two-year debate — still unresolved — on how to address the problem.At issue is the lack of stabilizer fins — blades that stick out from the hull to counteract the rolling motion of waves — on nine Hero class ships that were built by the Irving Shipyard in Halifax between 2010 and 2014.The problem is reportedly so bad that a trip along the West Coast required one Fisheries and Oceans Canada supervisor in B.C. to place rolled up jackets under the outer edge of his bunk to keep him pinned against the wall instead of being tossed out by the amount of roll in the ship."It goes without saying that the crew [is] in favour of [stabilizers]," wrote supervisor Mike Crottey. "Seasickness is felt both by conservation and protection and coast guard personnel and has an impact on vessel operation."Retrofit debated since 2017The coast guard decided it did not need stabilizers when the ships were being built, but has been considering retrofitting them since 2017 amid criticism from commanding officers and others who serve on board.Crottey said that in exposed water, the skipper of the CCGS M. Charles sets a weather course to "keep the ship from really rocking around," which can result in more fuel consumption and increased operating costs."This course is based on the swell and the wind direction and is used [to] alleviate excessive ship motion and not based on the shortest distance to destination," Crottey wrote. The nine Hero class vessels were built at the Irving Shipyard in Halifax. (Robert Short/CBC)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, Canadian Coast Guard or DFO officer. Their primary mission is fisheries enforcement and maritime security in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the Great Lakes and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The ships also provide search and rescue and pollution control.The coast guard denies there is any problem with the safety and stability of the fleet. However, in a March 2017 "configuration change request" to have stabilizers installed, coast guard project manager David Wyse described "an increased hazard of crew injuries and program failures."All vessel operators agree the Hero class vessels require stabilizers in all area of operation," Wyse wrote. "Program operations can suffer [due] to the fact that the vessels have extreme roll in high sea state conditions."More than a year later, in May 2018, Wyse relayed an unidentified at-sea testimonial: "I'm rolling 15 degrees port and starboard (30 degrees total) out here today and the winds are less than 10 knots and seas are less than one metre. We need to make this platform more workable."'This ship rocks like crazy'Those concerns were echoed by Sgt. Hector Chaisson of the RCMP Marine Security Enforcement Teams who, in September 2017, wrote "greater stability of the ship would be appreciated by the entire crew and would avoid repeated seasickness."Fred Emeneau, commanding officer of the CCGS G. Peddle, was more blunt in his assessment."All I know is something needs to be done," he said. "They want us to patrol through the nights whenever possible. The crews are getting fatigued trying to achieve this in North Atlantic conditions in the winter. Most 45-foot [13.7-metre] fishing boats we work around are wider than the [mid-shore patrol vessels]."The commanding officer of the CCGS G. Peddle says crews are tired trying to patrol at nighttime in North Atlantic conditions during the winter. (CBC)In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Francois Lamoutee, commander of the CCGS Caporal Kaeble emailed on August 2018 with his opinion."By the way stabilizers should never have been removed from the original design. Please put them back ASAP. Losing a few cubic metres of fuel space will be a minor factor compared to the huge gain in stability, safety and comfort for the crew."The issue of excessive rolling isn't limited to expeditions at sea.Steve Arniel, commanding officer of the CCGS Constable Carrière on the Great Lakes, emailed in June 2018, saying, "This ship rocks like crazy tied to the dock!"Dozens of missed days at seaAnother concern is the time the vessels spend holding up the wharf because of weather.In the 2016-17 season, the Nova Scotia-based CCGS Corporal McLaren lost 44 per cent of ship time allotted to fisheries patrols — 112 of 252 days — because the vessel could not sail due to weather, according to its commanding officer.Greg Naugle reported that "87 days of those weather days were in s ...Read more

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