(OTTAWA) The federal government admits it doesn’t know when Davie Shipyard will deliver a much-anticipated fleet of new icebreakers to the Canadian Coast Guard.

Officials in Ottawa say the timing will depend on negotiations with the Lévis shipyard, which was officially added last week to the National Shipbuilding Strategy, which includes multi-billion dollar contracts.

The age of the Coast Guard’s existing icebreakers has been a concern for some time now, and some wonder if the new vessels to replace them will arrive in time.

Auditor General Karen Hogan pointed out in a report last year that the fleet, which is already on average over 40 years old, is increasingly prone to breakdowns and expensive to maintain.

Ms. Hogan concluded that there is little room for delays if Ottawa is serious about maintaining its current river icebreaking capabilities, which are critical to keeping Canada’s waterways open to commerce and resupplying northern communities. .

Rob Huebert, a professor at the University of Calgary, says the government’s decision to buy three used icebreakers from Davie will give some respite in the meantime. But he points out that building new icebreakers takes time – even without the added complication of negotiations with the shipyard.