Esquimalt-based submarines docked due to poor welding

Poor-quality welding has kept the country’s West Coast submarines docked in Esquimalt for months, confirmed the Royal Canadian Navy.

HMCS Chicoutimi and HMCS Victoria have been in port since the beginning of this year — and they will likely remain for months longer as further weld inspections and repairs are underway.

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“The welds are concerning because they can lead to system failures and possibly injuries,” said spokesman Desmond James, noting there are thousands of welds on each submarine.

“Welding that does not meet the high standard required for the Royal Canadian Navy can put sailors at risk of being injured. This is really about the safety of our submariners and making sure we are operating our equipment in a safe manner.”

Similar problems were found during modernization of the Halifax-class frigates in 2014. A subcontractor misunderstood standards for welding work, the navy said.

A February inspection of 344 welds on HMCS Chicoutimi showed 30 needed immediate repair. Those are 85 per cent complete, being done under warranty by Victoria contractor Babcock Canada.

Inspection of HMCS Victoria is ongoing, with 325 welds being looked at.

James said there is not a definite date for the submarines to return to work.

“We don’t have an exact timeframe at this point for getting HMCS Chicoutimi back into the operational cycle, and we are still conducting inspections on HMCS Victoria,” he said.

“As you may appreciate, repairs are more complicated on board a submarine due to the number of high-pressure systems and confined workspaces. What is most important is taking the time to make the repairs and ensure the safety of our submariners.”

The submarines are part of a purchase from the British Royal Navy in the early 2000s. The fleet has had numerous problems.

HMCS Victoria spent five years in drydock for a major overhaul before returning to duty in 2011. In 2004, HMCS Chicoutimi was damaged by a fire that killed an officer.

spetrescu@timescolonist.com

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