​Canadian Navy turns to eBay to fix troubled supply ships

Reuters / Axel Schmidt
Canadian Navy technicians had to look for repair parts on eBay to fix one of its outdated supply ships, enabling it to hold out till it’s replaced with a modern one, briefing documents obtained by local media reveal.

According to navy commander Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s notes, many parts at ‘Preserver’ – one of the two Her Majesty's Canadian Ships (HMCS) – are “beyond acceptable limits.” Corrosion has compromised the vessel’s structural integrity, he said according to the Canadian Press.

“It will be very difficult to continue to confidently operate her at sea until her planned divestment date in 18 months,” the briefing concluded as quoted by the news agency.

Technicians sought to keep HMCS Preserver in service, but it seems have been losing their battle.

Broken parts were repaired, but “once this was fixed, the next question was which equipment or system would be the next to fail.”

To fix the Preserver, Navy mechanics had to turn to eBay to find spare parts: the original manufacturers had long-since ceased to produce them.

The National Defense has been insisting on retirement of Preserver and its sister ship HMCS Protecteur, both 45 years old.

After the May 9, 2014 briefing note the department was frustrated that the ships had not been retired on schedule.

The Protecteur was formally retired; the Preserver is next in line. But according to the new program, replacement ships will be supplied only in eight years’ time.

For a long time the ships were in precarious shape and getting worse but the briefing note on May 9, 2014, which was also sent to the head of military procurement said, it “was no longer viable to expend limited resources” to keep them going.

The Canadian Navy did have plans to replace both ships, but the Conservative government refused to do that in August 2008 because of high costs of industry proposals – that is why two outdated vessels were not decommissioned.

Liberal MP Marc Garneau, a former naval officer and astronaut, told the Canadian Press that it is “all driven by politics.”

Garneau says the Canadian navy is in a deplorable state even despite the multibillion-dollar upgrade to the Halifax-class frigates.

Without supply ships and air defense destroyers, which also must be retired in the nearest future, the Canadian Navy cannot carry out military tasks without foreign support – for example, US protection from long-range threats.