Canadian Coast Guard Retires Oldest Vessel Early Without Replacement

Canadian Coast Guard retires oldest serving vessel
CCGS Hudson was commissioned in 1964 (Canadan Coast Guard photo)

Published Jan 19, 2022 4:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Canadian Coast Guard announced the unscheduled retirement of its oldest serving vessel, the CCGS Hudson, which has been operating as part of the country’s oceanographic science program. Unplanned, the retirement came about due to mechanical failures and the age of the vessel, creating a multi-year gap in the research programs and again shinning focus on the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

Launched in 1963 and commissioned the following year, the Hudson had become legendary in the fleet. An Arctic Class Two vessel, she was homeported in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Her long career saw a broad range of oceanographic missions, including numerous mappings and surveys, including of the North Atlantic Ridge. She became the first vessel outside the U.S. Navy to be outfitted with satellite navigation technology and the first to use a helicopter during Arctic surveys. In 1969-70 she also transited the Northwest Passage as part of a tour that made her the first vessel to circumnavigate both North and South America. 

Plans for her eventual replacement began in the 2000s with news that a vessel would replace her in 2012. However, with her replacement repeated delayed, the vessel started undergoing a series of life extension upgrades and overhauls addressing issues such as rusting plates. In 2019, she started a further C$10 million overhaul replacing steel and repairing various areas of the vessel’s decks and tanks designed to extend her life to 2024, but in November 2021, a failure of the starboard propulsion motor placed the CCGS Hudson once again out of service.

“Due to the scale of the problem and the time and cost to repair it, combined with the costs associated with an upcoming period of regulatory compliance work, it has been determined that the ship is beyond economical repair and further investment would not allow it to return to reliable service,” said the Canadian Coast Guard in today’s announcement of the decommissioning of the Hudson.

The CCGS Hudson was a key platform for Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s oceanographic science program. The Government of Canada awarded a C$450 million contract to Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards in February 2021 for the construction of a replacement vessel due to enter service in 2024. While the Hudson’s planned trips for this winter had already been canceled, the decommissioning leaves Canada without a dedicated ocean research vessel. The replacement project is behind schedule with the new ship now expected to be delivered in 2025.

“The Canadian Coast Guard is working closely with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to evaluate the near and long terms impacts on programming and developing a plan to mitigate these impacts,” said the Coast Guard. “Discussions are focused on which parts of the science program can be completed by other Canadian Coast Guard vessels, by chartered vessels, or through the use of other technology.” 

The National Shipbuilding Strategy has become a politically charged issue. The government has been accused of failing to execute the strategy and using the contracts for political gain. The unplanned decommissioning of the Hudson is likely to renew the debate.