Canada considers stabilizers for cutters after reports of rolling


The Canadian Coast Guard is assessing whether stabilizers should be integrated into the service’s nine Hero-class midshore patrol vessels, constructed by Irving Shipbuilding from 2011 to 2014. The federal government opted not to outfit the cutters with stabilizers when they were built, and the 140-foot ships are reportedly prone to rolling excessively at sea.

John Dalziel, technical adviser to the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, said in March that the government’s decision not to include stabilizers, which are part of Damen’s Stan Patrol 4207 design, was made before he served as a Coast Guard deputy project manager from 2012 to 2015.

“I’m not aware of any Coast Guard front-line personnel who agreed with that decision,” said Dalziel, who is an adjunct professor of industrial engineering at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Hero-class cutters, designed by the Netherlands-based Damen Group, can reach a speed of 25 knots, have a range of 2,000 miles and can be at sea for two weeks without re-provisioning.

Excessive motion by a ship without stabilizers can make mariners fatigued, and that’s a problem recognized by the International Maritime Organization, Dalziel said. He cited the IMO’s MSC.1/Circular 1598, which states “ship motion may interfere with sleep, cause motion-induced fatigue (fatigue caused by the extra energy expended to maintain balance while moving, especially during harsh sea conditions) and seasickness.”

Dalziel said excessive motion also makes it very difficult to launch and recover rigid-hull inflatable boats, which are among the Coast Guard’s tasks. “Working near rotating machinery and near hot surfaces may also be dangerous” when a vessel rolls, he said.

Another IMO document, MSC/Circular 1014, states that fatigue increases susceptibility to errors, creating potential for steps in a sequence to be omitted; can cause individuals to choose risky strategies when they require less effort to execute; affects and delays reactions to stimuli; and hinders problem-solving essential to handling new tasks.

The Canadian Coast Guard is assessing whether integrating stabilizers would reduce rolling in certain weather conditions and spur other improvements, said Barre Campbell, spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard.

“We’re reviewing options for vessel stabilization and their potential impact on operations,” she said. “A decision will be made about the best options. There’s no specific timeline for this.”

Hero-class cutters typically have a crew of nine composed of five Canadian Coast Guard crewmembers and four others from Fisheries and Oceans Canada or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Campbell said. More than 15 countries, including the United Kingdom’s Border Agency and Mexico’s navy, operate vessels based on variants of Damen’s Stan Patrol 4207 with stabilizers.

In March, spokesman Sean Lewis at Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax said the Canadian Coast Guard hadn’t brought the rolling issue to the company’s attention. He recommended that inquiries be addressed to the service.

Campbell said the Canadian Coast Guard is committed to a high standard of safety and security for all sailing personnel. “The midshore patrol vessels are safe,” she said. “They were built to Canadian standards, including marine regulations and construction standards, and they continue to be safe for operation.”

The nine Hero-class cutters were built under terms of a $194 million contract announced by the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans and the Ministry of National Defense in September 2009. The vessels are named after Canadians who sacrificed their lives in service to their country.

By Professional Mariner Staff