(Tristin Hopper/National Post, 10 October 2011) -- The Coast Guard icebreaker Louis St. Laurent has freed innumerable ice-locked vessels, explored the unseen depths of the Arctic bottom and hosted prime ministers and the world’s top Arctic scientists. Recently, however, the bright red workhorse of Canada’s marine Arctic presence has been doing not much of anything. For the past two weeks, the 111-metre icebreaker has been stranded off the Nunavut coast by a loose propeller nut. Since Sept. 27, the ship’s bobbing red form has been a familiar sight from the shores of the 1,500-person Arctic hamlet of Cambridge Bay. The ship was stranded by a maddeningly simple malfunction: A nut on the centre propeller that was knocked out of place by no more than a few inches. ... A crew of 48 remain on board, along with a team of Vancouver-based underwater ship repair specialists. The team of cold water divers are scrambling to get the ship operational before freeze-up, which is only weeks away.The Louis St. Laurent experienced frequent propeller malfunctions into the 1990s due to the propellers being constructed from inferior metal. The Coast Guard repaired the problem in 2000 by installing stainless steel propellers. Regardless, last year the ship experienced a similar propeller shaft breakdown. Built in 1969, the Louis St. Laurent is due for a long-awaited retirement in 2017, when the $720 million John Diefenbaker is set to take its place. “We feel it is a very capable vessel and it can do the job but, at the same time, it is now 40 years old and it is getting time to think about a replacement,” George Da Pont, commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, told a Senate committee in 2008.
Posted 11 October 2011; 3:18:49 PM. Permalink