Government issues tender for coast guard ships

Ship purchase is part of the fleet under $33-billion national shipbuilding procurement

October 2, 2012
by Canadian Press

HALIFAX—The federal government has issued a tender calling for the design of low-emission Canadian Coast Guard ships that would incorporate hydrogen fuel cell technology. The three offshore fisheries science vessels are intended to replace four aging coast guard ships and would be stationed on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They are part of the fleet under Ottawa’s $33-billion national shipbuilding procurement announced last year.

The tender said the government plans to spend about $332,000 to look into integrating hydrogen fuel cell technology into the new ships, which would be constructed at the Seaspan Marine Corp shipyard in Vancouver. Zuomin Dong, a professor in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Victoria, lauded the move as a great step for marine technology in Canada.

“Hybrid technology is for sure, no doubt beneficial,” said Dong. When compared to a traditional vessel, fuel cells have significantly lower emissions, improved fuel economy and produce less noise, the tender said.

Dong said when vessels are cruising at sea, diesel engines are highly efficient. However, when the ship glides into port, the engines are not operating at full power and their efficiency can drop to less than 50 per cent, he said. Fuel cells, which continuously convert hydrogen fuel into electricity, have made a mark in the automotive industry, but have yet to break into the commercial marine sector.

The Public Works contract proposes a hybrid fuel cell and diesel electric propulsion system to power the ships. The tender closed last week. Federal officials did not return messages Friday, but the government’s intention was to award the contract to the Ontario-based Alion Science and Technology Canada, according to the tender.

Public Works is required to issue a tender signalling other suppliers that may be capable of meeting the requirements. The tender said the aim of the project is to install a hydrogen fuel cell in the range of 1,500 kilowatts.

Construction of the ships is expected to begin in 2013 as part of Seaspan’s $8-billion contract to build seven non-combat vessels. The ships would conduct fishing and acoustic surveys of fish and collect information on the distribution and biology of marine species, among other tasks.