Risks: Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy—2019 annual report

Navigation for Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy: 2019 annual report

The Government of Canada (GC) has developed a formal and robust risk management plan for the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS). The plan is informed by international best practices, and helps to predict, identify and mitigate the key risks facing the NSS. Risk management also helps to implement corrective actions to the NSS in order for us to be well-positioned to meet the long-term objectives of the strategy. Risks are managed at the project, program (combat, non-combat and small vessels and sustainment) and over-arching NSS levels. Risks are also considered by the appropriate governance committees and are escalated as necessary from the working level to senior executives and the shipyards.

In addition to the challenges referenced earlier in the report, the NSS faces the following key risks:

Timely analysis and decision-making

The NSS is a large and complex endeavour involving multiple projects, shipyards, departments and agencies. To prevent costly delays or impede achievement of greater efficiencies, it is important that information makes its way to decision makers in a timely manner. To mitigate this, the risk management team has been expanded, with the addition of more human resources. A number of third-party consultants have been added in various areas that touch on the NSS (such as insurance advisors, third parties on policy work and fairness monitors).

Human resources capacity

Ensuring sufficient human resources capacity exists to sustain Canada’s industrial base is a risk common to all sectors. For the marine sector, and more specifically shipbuilding, there is a risk of insufficient human resources capacity needed to manage and execute complex, specialized shipbuilding projects. This risk includes project management and cost-estimating capacity within government and experienced, skilled resources, such as tradespeople and specialists at the shipyards.

For example, to retain the workforce at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards, a change was made in the sequencing for the construction of the joint support ships (JSS), which will ensure focused engineering resources on each of the projects, while allowing for time between construction of the first and second JSS to incorporate lessons learned. Moreover, this allows for uninterrupted work at the shipyard, mitigating the risk of potential layoffs and fluctuations in production between builds.

This risk is also being mitigated by hiring more procurement officers, training government analysts on estimating cost, continuing to support training and apprenticeship programs, partnerships with colleges and universities, seeking out innovative recruitment approaches, and ensuring succession planning is in place. Also, a new PSPC directorate was created during 2019 that is focusing on creating a human resource strategy to address the growing challenge of labour shortages in support of the NSS.


The NSS is an ever-evolving portfolio of complex, long-term work. It can sometimes be a challenge to clearly communicate aspects of the NSS to both internal and external audiences. To mitigate the risk of ineffective internal communications, the GC has co-located project teams from implicated departments and implemented ongoing and robust governance that includes representation from the 2 main shipyards. Departments such as Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, National Defence, the Canadian Coast Guard and Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) collaborate on a daily basis to help ensure ongoing, consistent communications with key strategic partners.

With respect to external communications, the GC keeps the public informed by publishing annual reports and providing information about the NSS, including status of projects, on the Public Services Procurement Canada (PSPC) website. Announcements are held when major project milestones are achieved, and the government continues to seek opportunities to provide Canadians with timely information about the NSS. Moving forward, additional emphasis will be placed on increasing transparency around shipbuilding risks and realities.

Additionally, this year, a key element of external communications included social media from PSPC, CCG and National Defence to highlight not only the social and economic benefits, but also progress being achieved under the NSS. Over 400 posts were made on different social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The people building the ships are often profiled, and these posts have helped us reach a wider audience.

Navigation for Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy: 2019 annual report

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