Spain looks for piece of shipbuilding pie

Source: James Risdon, The Chronicle Herald 

Date: July 25, 2016

Navantia, the fifth-biggest shipbuilder in the world, brought a Spanish navy frigate to Halifax Monday in a bid to show what it can bring to Canada’s program to rebuild its navy.

Emiliano Metesanz, Navantia’s senior area manager for North America, said Monday 35 to 40 companies, most of them suppliers to the shipbuilding industry, visited the Spanish navy’s F-105, which is named after explorer Christopher Columbus.

Officials with Irving Shipbuilding, the prime contractor for the federal government’s almost $26-billion combatant surface program, were not among them. Although invited, Irving Shipbuilding declined the invitation to meet with Navantia and visit the frigate.

Metesanz said he understands this was not a snub.

“They feel they had a responsibility to act as fairly as possible,” he said in an interview.

Navantia is one of seven companies which have been pre-qualified to place bids with Irving Shipbuilding for the warship design under Canada’s national shipbuilding procurement strategy. The other companies are: Alion-JJMA; BAE Systems; DCNS Group; Fincantieri; Odense Maritime Technology, and; ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.

“At this point, any engagement with Irving has to be through the specific industry agreement,” Metesanz said.

The next date under that process for the Spanish government-owned naval company to meet with Irving Shipbuilding officials is Aug. 8.

Many of the specifications for the warship design subcontract have yet to be finalized. This will, in turn, determine how much the vessels will cost and how long it will take to build them. But Metesanz said work could start in 2018 and the first such warship could be ready for action by as early as 2024.

Three years ago, Navantia’s reputation took a hit when a miscalculation during the engineering process led to the company building a submarine that was too heavy to float, a 2.2-billion-euro boondoggle. Since then, Navantia has reviewed and tightened up its critical design review process to ensure this never happens again.

“We have learned and implemented changes,” said Metesanz.

Irving Shipbuilding’s role in the national procurement strategy is to be the prime contractor for the combat role, which includes both the Royal Canadian Navy’s Arctic offshore patrol ships and surface combatant vessels which will lead to the replacement of Canada’s destroyers and frigates.

Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards is the prime contractor for the non-combat part of this strategy which includes the navy’s joint support ships, offshore oceanographic science vessels, polar icebreaker and coast guard’s offshore fisheries science vessel.

A part of J.D. Irving, Irving Shipbuilding operates primarily out of the Halifax shipyard. Its role as the prime contractor for the navy fighting ships program is expected to last 30 years. It has already awarded more than $1 billion in contracts under the national shipbuilding strategy to more than 200 companies, and this is expected to create 9,000 direct and indirect jobs.

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