Shipbuilding: Misery Loves Company?

21 June 2018. After a lull in shipbuilding over the past 20 years, many countries are now beefing up their naval fleets. Canada is in the process of recapitalizing both its navy and coast guard fleets. The process and progress of the National Shipbuilding Strategy in Canada have been criticized – there are serious concerns about costs and delays in particular. However, we should remember that shipbuilding is a complex activity, and none of us want ships that don’t float, move or fight. I’m not sure if it’s true that misery loves company or not, but we need to remember that every state has hiccups in its shipbuilding process. For example, the US Government Accounting Office report Navy Shipbuilding: Past Performance Provides Valuable Lessons for Future Investments, published 6 June 2018, outlines problems with naval shipbuilding for the US Navy. It notes that "Challenges in meeting shipbuilding cost, schedule, and performance goals have resulted in a less-capable and smaller fleet today than the Navy planned over 10 years ago," and "the Navy’s shipbuilding programs have had years of construction delays and, even when the ships eventually reached the fleet, they often fell short of quality and performance expectations" [https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/692331.pdf]. It’s quite likely that there have been cost overruns and delays for every shipbuilding program since Neanderthals first discovered water and fish. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve the processes – we must continue to push both government and industry to do better – but we have to be realistic.

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