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Canadian Coast Guard’s Historic Research Vessel Heads for Dismantling

Canadian Coast Guard research ship to be dismantled
Hudson had a distinguished career before mechanical failures forced her retirement (CCG photo)

Published Dec 9, 2022 4:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

After about six decades of service, Canada’s sole ocean research vessel that was decommissioned earlier this year due to age and mechanical failures is making its final voyage for dismantling. The Canadian Coast Guard announced it has awarded a $1.1 million contract to R.J. MacIsaac Construction to deconstruct and dispose CCGS Hudson in line with high environmental standards.  

The ocean research vessel heads for dismantling following an illustrious 59 years of service supporting ocean science work in Canada and around the world. The ship, a key platform for Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s oceanographic science program, was decommissioned in January 2022 after a failure of its starboard propulsion motor put it out of service. The CCG determined that due to the scale of the problem and the time and cost of repair, combined with the costs associated with regulatory compliance work, the vessel was beyond economical repair and further investment would not allow it to return to reliable service.

“Today is a bittersweet day as the Canadian Coast Guard responsibly disposes of the CCGS Hudson, a trailblazing vessel that has served Canadians and Canadian scientists for nearly 60 years. The Canadian Coast Guard taking this step serves as a reminder to all vessel owners across the country to have a plan to dispose of their ships in an environmentally responsible way to protect our lands and oceans,” said Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Prior to the handover of the ship, the CCG removed a number of items including the ship’s bell, the wheel, chronometer, anchors, and photographs which are currently being safely stored. The historic items will be archived or donated to maritime museums, installed on the future offshore oceanographic science vessel and on other CCG vessels, or placed as historical decorative pieces at departmental sites.

Launched in 1963 and commissioned the following year, the Hudson had become legendary with a long career in ocean research 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.

The CCG said that in the coming weeks, it will sign over the decommissioned vessel to the scrappers. The Hudson will then be towed from its homeport at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia to a temporary storage site in Halifax Harbor. In spring 2023, the dismantling company will tow the vessel to its Sheet Harbour facility where the hazardous material remediation and disposal process will be performed. By fall 2023, the vessel will be removed from water and the hull and superstructure will be disassembled. The overall project is expected to be completed by the end of fall 2023. The company will ensure that any steel, stainless steel, aluminum, or other recyclable materials onboard the vessel are recycled while non-recyclable materials are disposed of in an environmentally-responsible manner. The contractor will salvage and return the Hudson’s hull transducers and propellers to the CCG.

The decommissioning and now dismantling of the Hudson has put Canada’s ocean research program in limbo over the next three years as the country awaits delivery of a replacement vessel scheduled for 2025. The Coast Guard has explored chartering other vessels in the interim. The new offshore oceanographic science vessel is currently under construction at Seaspan's Vancouver Shipyards at a cost of $332.3 million. The vessel is being built as part of Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS).