Update 1 p.m., Dec. 16: FedNav confirms to me that it’s not the buyer. Awaiting word from Oceanex and Transport Desgagnes, which I linked to in my first post.
Yesterday, I wrote a post about a mysterious Canadian company that had placed an order for a container/vehicle ferry with the same German shipyard that built BC Ferries’ big new vessels a few years ago.
My main point was that it was very odd for such a big contract to be announced without naming the party that was doing the buying.
The German shipyard should have been boasting all over the place, not just in quiet interviews, given the dismal state of the European economy and of shipbuilding in general right now. And boasting aside, these are normally just straightforward announcements made through the industry press.
If it was a Canadian government purchase, or an order placed by a public-type agency like a provincial ferry service on either coast, it would have gone to tender. So the process would have been quite public — and so would the fact that the ferry company would have had to get its board to approve the spending.
(I really appreciated the enthusiasm behind the theory that David Hahn, the departing CEO of BC Ferries, had somehow secretly ordered one last German ferry as a parting shot, but that’s pretty much impossible.)
(Note: FedNave has just confirmed to me via email that it isn’t the buyer. I’ll be posting again on that later today, and leaving this post stand for now.)
FedNav is based in Montreal, and already has a lot of ice-class vessels, which is what has been ordered. And they’ve expanded a fair bit in the past five years. Looks like they won a number of government contract northern routes in Canada. And, if I’m looking at correct information, contracts with the government of Newfoundland.
Oceanex, headquartered in St. John’s, is owned by Sid Hynes, former chair of Marine Atlantic. It hauls freight for Costco, Zellers and Wal-Mart. And they’ve recently picked up a big deal to ship new autos from the car port in Dartmouth into Newfoundland. Hynes is owns a piece of Canship Ugland, which manages the shuttle tankers that bring crude oil in from the offshore fields in Newfoundland.
As many of my clever readers helpfully pointed out, there’s a news story written in German that deals with the contract announcement (but doesn’t name the buyer either). Roughly translated, part of the piece points out the new ferry is intended for use between Montreal and Newfoundland. So again, FedNav fits the bill. And so does Oceanex.
In any case, that still doesn’t explain the secrecy.
Unless it was mostly about Canadian sensibilities over the past year, when Ottawa was busy cancelling the import duty on imported vessels — including ferries over 129 metres. This new one is planned for 210 metres.
Because at the same time that was going on, the country was beginning to hear about the billions of dollars worth of shipbuilding money that Ottawa was about to sprinkle around the country.
Maybe as all of those very political headlines were being written, it just seemed smarter to fly under the radar.
Or maybe it was, and still is, come kind of commercial consideration.
As always, your thoughts and theories are welcome, either in the public comments box below, or to my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.