British Columbia’s shipbuilding industry is happy today, gearing up to work on an $8-billion piece of the largest marine construction program in Canadian history. The federal government takes pride in what they claim has been a painstakingly fair, non-political, capability based process.
A fairness consultant hired to monitor the process, said that, of ten such projects reviewed during his career, this process “was one of the best, if not the best.“
In other words, Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards competed on a level playing field and proved itself capable of handling a contract 15 times the size of one David Hahn and BC Ferries sent to Germany in 2004 and 60 times larger than for the fourth German ship in 2009.
Today, Premier Christy Clark says,
What this means is we will see thousands of jobs come to British Columbia … thousands of high-paid jobs, people who are going to be able to support their kids, solid middle class jobs and I think it’s so important.
This also puts the lie to a claim by BC Ferries that it had good reasons to go overseas for construction of three Super-C vessels and the vessel Northern Explorer.
The four German built ships were worth about $700-million dollars. BC Liberals refused to allow Vancouver Shipyards to participate in the final bidding process and a contract for the Super-C ferries was awarded to Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft mbH & Co. in September 2004. FSG was owned by EGON OLDENDORFF, a private German tramp shipowner that rescued FSG after a four-year bankruptcy. The company changed hands again in 2008.
Clearly, BC workers could have done the work but BC Ferries chose to create 5,000 jobs in Europe instead. They did this despite a proud record of successful ship construction and a powerful owner in the Washington Marine Group, the successful contractor in today’s $8 billion award.
BC Ferries should have built its Super-C ships in British Columbia, updating the Spirit Class design created here in the nineties. These now teenage ships outperform the newer German ships in every important way, most particularly in fuel efficiency and capacity.
We as taxpayers are only left to wonder about the real reasons BC Ferries sent the better part of a billion dollars to a foreign builder, eliminating economic benefits that could have served the provincial economy. We know from escalating salaries and bonuses paid the Ferry Corporation’s senior officials, that no one paid a price for this costly blunder.
That leaves me wondering if there were other factors at work: corruption as we’ve seen in BC Hydro’s contracting, where benefits accruing to taxpayers were less important than the financial gains going into pockets of BC Liberal associates, the influence paddlers and insiders.
If Premier Clark wants more fine jobs for BC, she should pay attention to The Tyee where she might learn about other high paying jobs exported by provincial agencies who forget their obligations to citizens of the province. This is from Jobs Flow to Albertans Due to BC Hydro Deals Topping $1 Billion:
BC Hydro, the publicly owned electricity utility, is spending $1 billion on transmission lines. But rather than hire B.C. companies to do the work, the bulk of it has been awarded to two Alberta companies. Those companies are themselves subsidiaries of Quanta Services, based in Texas.