A $10-million refit of Canada's oldest coast guard vessel will be delayed by up to six months to remove lead paint found inside the ocean science ship Hudson.
Repair work on the storied 56-year old ship was expected to last until this fall at the NewDock shipyard in St. John's.
But NewDock told the coast guard this week that safely dealing with lead paint discovered inside CCGS Hudson will delay the refit.
"Six months is the worst-case scenario that we have from the shipyard," said Gary Ivany, the coast guard's assistant commissioner, in an interview from Ottawa.
Hudson arrived at NewDock in February and was taken out of the water to replace steel and various areas of the vessel's decks and tanks.
The coast guard is trying to keep the ship at sea until 2024, which is when a replacement is scheduled to be in service.
In late April, suspected lead paint buried under newer paint layers was discovered when coatings were removed.
Sixteen unionized coast guard crew and officers were given blood tests after it was confirmed the paint contained lead.
The test results are pending.
Shipyard workers and their family doctors were also informed, the coast guard said.
The area was sealed off and work has yet to resume in those spaces, but work continues in areas that have been cleared and identified as safe for workers, such as the bridge deck, boat deck, engine room and motor room.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada, which is the union representing 10 coast guard crewmen, says the paint was detected in a water tank inside the ship and workers will not go back until they know the area is safe.
In the meantime, the coast guard wants to move up work that was planned for after the refit and carry it out while the ship is still out of the water in St. John's.
That work, which includes engine maintenance and installing science equipment like winches, was supposed to take place dockside when the Hudson returned to her home base in Dartmouth, N.S., in the fall.
The coast guard still intends to have the Hudson back in service by April 2020 and available for at-sea science missions.
Ivany said Public Services and Procurement Canada will tell the coast guard in the coming weeks what this means for the project's budget.
The NewDock contract was for $10 million, while a contract for alongside work planned for Dartmouth has not been awarded.
"Extending the ship there longer will have an impact on cost, but we're hoping that it's well within the contingencies of the work they were planning to do," said Ivany.
The refit at NewDock is Phase 2 of a life extension for CCGS Hudson.
Phase 1 was carried out in 2017 by Heddle Marine in Hamilton.
The $4-million refit was five months behind schedule and still unfinished when the government towed the Hudson out of the shipyard rather than risk having it trapped for months by the winter closure of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The delay forced DFO to spend $2.5 million chartering vessels to carry out science missions on the East Coast of Canada because Hudson was unavailable.
The ship has a storied past. In 1970, it became the first ship to sail around North and South America.
The Hudson was supposed to be replaced as early as 2014 as part of the national shipbuilding strategy, but the project to build a new offshore oceanographic science vessel at Vancouver's Seaspan shipyard is behind schedule as the yard works on two navy supply ships.
Earlier this year, Global News reported that the Davie Shipyard in Quebec told the federal government it would not bid on the latest life extension refit job, saying the Hudson was beyond repair.
Editor: Yuan Yue