Multi-Ship Refits - Roger brief to NOAC Montreal

Tags:  papers 
Author: Roger Chiasson
Published: Jul 27th 2009
Updated: 4 years ago

“Maintaining the Old, while anticipating the New (Refitting/Updating of Steam Destroyers)”

Commander R.E. Chiasson, Detachment Commander, 201 CFTSD


Naval Officer’s Association of Canada, Montreal Chapter

22 January, 1982

Gentlemen. It is indeed an honour for me to have been invited to speak to you this evening, and a pleasure to be with such good company. I am well aware of the tremendous support and interest your organization has maintained, and continues to maintain, in the Navy, and if what I have to say tonight will serve to better inform you about the service which you admire and support, then it is a task I do not approach lightly, but with distinct pleasure.

I hope that none of you came expecting the hottest scoop on the Canadian Patrol Frigate, because I am afraid all I know on that subject is what I’ve read in the newspapers. I have chosen instead, a subject with which I am closely associated, and which, I think, is appropriate to the occasion.

I must, first of all, disclaim any credit for originality in selecting the title for my talk this evening. It was the underlying theme for the last Biennial Maritime Technical Officers’ Conference, held in September 1980, in Esquimalt, B.C. It was a very fitting theme for the mood which prevailed then, and still prevails within Naval circles, and I thought it was most appropriate for what I have to say this evening. We are by no means the first navy that has had to stretch the useful life of its ships. You have all heard the expression that “necessity is the mother of invention”; I think that after I have finished this presentation you will be impressed with the manner in which we are attempting to make the best of a less-than-desirable situation. Much of what we are doing to our aging ships has been the result of a dire need - expedients for survival, you could say - but much of the “infrastructure” which exists in the ship refit business was conceived quite independently of the pressing need to maintain the old while anticipating the new.

My talk, therefore, after this brief introduction, will deal primarily with the Multi-Ship Refit concept, which is the infrastructure I have just alluded to, and the Destroyer Life Extension Program (DELEX). I will then delve into some specific problem areas, such as the classic case of the “boiler superheater cracks”, and other “war stories” to focus in on what the ship refit game entails. I will then try to draw a few conclusions before opening the subject up to questions.

It has been government policy for some years to carry out refits of most steam destroyers and certain other vessels of the Atlantic fleet (and more recently those of the Pacific fleet) by contract refits at commercial shipyards. Prior to the multi-shiop concept, ship refits were contracted individually as they became due. The refits were carried out at a variety of locations by lowest-bid contractors who may or may not have had recent experience with destroyer overhauls. Refit administration, including the provision of overseeing staffs and supply and technical support, were hastily extemporized at the contractor’s site, after the award of the contract.

Far too often the successful contractor was only announced a few days before the refit commencement date, resulting in frantic confusion as people struggled to establish all the necessary procedures and overseeing arrangements with the contractor. It was not uncommon for a ship’s Commanding Officer to be ordered to sail for refit before the announcement of the contractor, not knowing whether his ship and crew were going to be located in Halifax, St. John, N.B., Quebec City, Sorel or Montreal.

The Multi-Ship Refit Program was developed in an attempt to overcome some of the problems inherent in the traditional approach. It was envisaged that a multi-ship approach would result in greater efficiency in several important aspects, shown on this and the next slide. For example the contractor should be able to assemble, develop and maintain a well trained and experienced work force, current in Naval technology, as well as a good network of sub-contractors with recent experience in Naval repairs. He should be able to develop improvements in planning and standard procedures for overhauling the complex systems, instead of relying on teh “learning curve”, and he should, as a result, be able to improve his performance with respect to delivery. With the stability and assurance of a long-term contract, it should be possible to develop better provisions for supply, loan tooling, and other refit equipment, such as test and trial gear, that may be kept “permanently” at the contractor’s premises. There should also be a well-developed and stable long-term liaison with DND authorities administering refits, and DSS contract management staffs. Some benefits were also expected in safety arrangements, facilities for the Technical Services Detachment (TSD) and other government staffs on-site and, possibly, more capital investment by the contractor in equipment and facilities for Naval refits.

The multi-ship contract and its attendant technical arrangements constituted a major change in policy sufficient in itself to keep a project team busy, working out the procedures. However, at about the same time, there were other refit matters also being subjected to review. For example, there was the question of the ship’s staff to consider. In the traditional refit system, the ship’s crew were required to support the refit by providing security and other on board services, carrying out a portion of the technical repair work, and conducting set-to-work and trials. Personnel who had spent, in some instances, years of adruous sea duty, with extensive separation from their families, suddenly found themselves located in refit for several months up to 800 miles away from their homes and family responsibilities in Halifax.

The zero-manned refit concept was introduced in an attempt to overcome some of the traditional problems. Following a turnover to the contractor in the first few days of the refit the ship’s staff were to return to Halifax for what is commonly known as a “nesting” period until the trials phase at the end of the refit.

The ship was to be contractually in the custody of the contractor, who would be responsible for safety and security. Overseeing of the refit work and quality assurance would be entirely the responsibility of the Technical Services Detachment (TSD).

To help ensure that no work would be overlooked due to the absence of ships’ staffs, special attention was directed to defining that work, mainly by increasing emphasis on pre-refit surveys, for which greatly augmented Command procedures were developed. The results of surveys and all other known defects and deficiencies were to be incorporated into a “Particularized Specification” for each individual destroyer, to augment the standard specification items, or “work catalogue”, which I will describe a little later.

At about the same time, other major changes were being introduced, associated with Operation Main Top, which was a major purchase of spares and equipment designed to improve the logistics support of the Fleet. The periodicity of refits was changed from 24 months to 48 months. The contractor’s work was expanded to include comprehensive painting and retiling of internal spaces, and extensive treatment of the hull and superstructure, including much paint work that had previously been done by ship’s staffs at the end of the refit. There was great emphasis on turning the ship over to the ship’s staff in a clean and smart condition to permit the ship’s staff to concentrate on trials and workups with a minimum of distractions.

To ensure reliability during the extended period of operation, there had to be high standards for refit quality control, supported by an increased emphasis on non-destructive testing, pre-installation testing of machinery, and other “enlightened technical management procedures.”

It can be seen from the foregoing comments that the multi-ship refit concept embodied some very comprehensive changes from traditional refit practice. I will dwell briefly on some of the more salient features of the concept, to illustrate its application and to highlight its advantages over the old single-ship refit approach.

I would like, first of all, to describe the form of the specification used in the multi-ship refits, which centers around the standard repair catalogue. This catalogue consists of several hundred standard specifications, covering all disciplines (docking, hull, engineering, electrical, operations and weapons), on which the potential contractors tender a bid, and which individual ships tailor to their needs, or particularize, prior to entry into refit.

This has several advantages: Firstly, the standard work is competitively priced, which tends to ensure the most economical repair, at least for those items in the catalogue. Secondly, it permits a ship entering refit to use the catalogue as a “shopping list” to select those items which are applicable to her, necessitating only details to be added, thereby particularizing the specification for that ship. Let me illustrate an example. The standard repair catalogue contains various items for painting and preservation of internal compartments, specifying areas to be cleaned to bare metal, washed and degreased, and painted with one or more coats of primer and/or top coat. The catalogue requires potential contractors to bid competitively on the items, based on unit prices for square footage. The ship uses the catalogue, during its pre-refit surveys, to identify the areas requiring the various treatments. After the ship arrives in the yard, the catalogue price is adjusted to reflect the actual work required, based on the contractor’s unit price.

Particularization of the refit catalogue must, of necessity, depend heavily on pre-refit surveys, which I alluded to earlier, and which are conducted by ship’s staff, and technical authorities ashore. Any of you who have been involved in the preparation of the previous, single-ship Maintenance and Repair Specification List (MRSL) will certainly appreciate the great improvement brought about by the concept of the catalogue/particularized specification. Incidentally, to further place what I have said in perspective, a typical particularized specification for a ship refit comprises over 600 individual specifications which, when stacked, are over 15 inches thick.

As mentioned earlier, the multi-ship concept comprises new initiatives in materiel support of ship refits, as well as the other areas of refit management. Unlike previous single-ship refits, in which supply support was more by accident than by design, multi-ship refit logistics support is largely pre-planned. For example, approximately 3,000 “line” items are identified, prior to refit commencement, demanded from the supply system and marshalled in a central area (25 CFSD in the case of East Coast refits) commencing 90 days prior to the refit start date.

Thirty days prior to the start date these pre-marshalled stores are made available to the contractor, and placed in his custody for the duration of the refit. These pre-marshalled stores consiste of specific items which stem from the known work in the refit specification, but also include a number of “insurance”, or “contingency” items held in reserve in the event that the refit process reveals a requirement for them. Also, the contract includes a requirement for the contractor to purchase a number of items to support the known work or anticipated arisings. These generally fall into the category of short-lead, “non-peculiar” items for which local purchase by the contractor is far more efficient than using the Canadian Forces Supply System.

Another effective innovation which came about when multi-ship refits were introduced is the concept of repair-by-replacement. For instance, shortly after a ship arrives, thirteen major auxiliaries, namely steam and motor-driven pumps, are removed as complete units, and taken to Peacock Inc., a marine repair facility in Ville La Salle. The units are stripped, repaired to original condition and tolerances, re-assembled , and performance tested at our own Naval Engineering Test Establishment, also in Ville La Salle, before they are re-cycled at sea, usually in another ship. As you can see, this procedure is far more efficient and dependable than the traditional approach of relying on the refit contractor to individually repair the various components.

I mentioned, during my introduction, that unlike previous single-ship refits, multi-ship refits are unmanned, and that the ship’s company stays in Halifax for the duration of the refit. Needless to say, this imposes some unusual demands on the contractor and the TSD.

Unlike manned refits, the contractor is solely responsible for the custody of the vessel during the refit. The ship is evacuated within three days of arrival, and the contractor moves on board with his own security personnel, who guard it 24-hours-a-day.

The ship is completely de-stored, and all attractive or portable items, including shower fittings, sink plugs, etc. are removed. The ship’s condition is recorded by photographs (average of 5 photos, in 3 copies, of all 220 compartments) so that when the process is reversed, at the end of the refit, when the ship’s company regains custody, there can be no argument about the condition expected.

Another dramatic departure from traditional practice is a requirement for the contractor to set the machinery to work, following repairs, and prior to acceptance by the ship’s company. The mere mention of this must make some old stokers and “purple-stripers” roll over in their grave, and no doubt any of you who were brought up to believe that an engineer never relinquishes final inspection and trialling to anyone are a little leary of the whole idea. I am here to tell you that the system works, and works remarkably well! Naturally, the contractor relies on ex-Naval personnel to make up the set-to-work team (in fact, our specification demands it), so the change is not as dramatic as it sounds.

The crux of the matter is that the contractor is solely responsible for scheduling and co-ordination of repairs to meet deadlines, safety while machinery is in operation, and quality of the work he has performed. I might add that this approach does not come cheaply, but the results are impressive and the lives of sailors are not disrupted. Typically, a ship’s company completes a “confirmation basin trial” within a few days of regaining custody at the end of the refit, and contractor’s sea trials are conducted a few days later, before final acceptance.

No discussion of multi-ship refits woudl be complete without at least some mention of quality assurance and quality control. Firstly, to clarify a point of semantics, quality control is what the contractor exercises to ensure quality. Quality assurance is what we, the inspectors, practice, by ensuring his system is adequate. QA/QC is a very complex subject, and I feel that its application in ship refits is, at this juncture, in the twilight zone between the traditional “Naval Overseeing” approach of yesteryear, which some of you may be familiar with, and the purist more “modern” approach of relying heavily on the contractor’s own vigilance to ensure quality. I will try to simplify my remarks, and attempt to paint you a picture of where we are and how we got there. I would be happy to answer any questions on the subject after the presentation, should any of you wish to delve into the subject any deeper.

It may come as no surprise to you that formal quality control procedures have never been the forte of ship builders and ship repairers. That is not to say that there was no quality in the absence of quality control. I happen to think that we have been well served by the industry, but I should qualify that by saying that our marine contractors have been greatly assisted by large, dedicated overseeing staffs. These Naval Overseers have not only served as inspectors of the contractor’s work, however; traditionally, a large proportion of the Naval Overseer’s task has been in the form of technical advice and logistics support.

When the multi-ship concept was introduced, an attempt was made to impose self-vigilance on the contractor. That is to say, a specification was drawn up which required the contractor to have a quality control system in place which would ensure the quality of the product. Essentially, the requirement was for inspection to be, if not independent, at least separate from production. In other words, a worker was not expected to certify his own work. Also, there was considerable emphasis on “documented evidence” of quality, so that, by examining the paperwork, one could get the warm feeling that correct procedures had been followed, required tolerances had been met, and that the specification had been adhered to.

For reasons that are far too numerous and complex to elaborate here, very little progress was made during the first three multi-ship contracts. Suffice it to say that no one was solely responsible. Perhaps we asked too much, too soon. The contractor wasn’t really interested, but perhaps we didn’t make it worth his while.

The current multi-ship contract (MS-IV), and, I might add, west coast destroyer refit contracts, include a requirement for the contractor to have a quality control system which complies with DND 1016, a standard specification for contractors’ quality control systems. After experience with one ship in the current contract I can say that there has been progress; we are left with a legacy of the old overseeing days, however, and if we have learned anything from this whole exercise, it is that we have to learn to walk before we can run.

Both DND and the marine industry are proceeding cautiously, like two ships crossing at night, conscious of the danger of collision, but also hopeful that when it’s all over we can proceed apace. My personal feelings are that progress will continue to evolve and some degree of success in introducing QA/QC into the marine field is inevitable, for the simple reason that our resources (DND) simply cannot tolerate the overseeing approach forever, and, the pending boom in marine activity, brought about by offshore energy development and the CPF Program, will cause the industry to self-impose sound quality control procedures. As I said earlier, we are in the twilight zone. I, for one, find it rather interesting to be involved in the gradual metamorphosis which seems to be taking place.

Before I change subjects, allow me to enlarge, briefly, on the area of cosmetics which I touched upon in my introduction. Multi-ship refit contracts demand a very high standard of appearance on completion; the standard which ship’s companies now take for granted on completion of a major refit is a far cry from the days of single-ship refits. Exterior hulls are blasted to clear metal from the “round-down” down, and the entire interior of the ship gets at least a cosmetic top-coat, with any additional preparation subject to catalogue amendment, as I mentioned earlier in my example.

Doubtless many ships’ Executive Officers will continue to find fault with omissions or poor workmanship which are the result of inadequate specifications, poor preparation, or interference with other work. Unless properly planned and executed, cosmetics may fall short of expectations. However, it is fair to say that the state of husbandry of a ship departing the contractor’s facility is such that a ship’s company need not “start from behind”, but can maintain its appearance with “routine” maintenance.

Destroyer Life Extension Program

The Destroyer Life Extension Program, commonly known by the acronym “DELEX” is a significant part of our program of maintaining the old, while anticipating the new. The title is self-explanatory, and most of you, I’m sure, are generally aware of what the program entails. Permit me, if you will, to give you a deeper insight into DELEX: How it came about, its objectives, and what it means to our ships.

The existing steam destroyers of our Naval fleet which were commissioned between 1956 and 1964 were designed to last for 20-25 years. In 1976 it became obvious that, in view of the likely timing of replacement programs, it would be necessary to undertake a major life extension project involving most of these destroyers, if the Naval commitments to multi-national alliances and maintenance of sovereignty were to be maintained.

A cost and feasibility study was conducted in 1977 to examine a wide range of options. The study revealed that a complete update of all systems, on all ships, was far beyond the Department’s resources; on the other hand, the opposite extreme would lead to escalating maintenance costs, decreased ship availability, decreased combat capability, and rapidly deteriorating safety margins.

The objectives of DELEX, therefore, were to minimize the level of risk and deterioration, at a price we could afford. These objectives, as shown on this slide are:

A. To curb maintenance costs;

B. To increase ship availability;

C. To increase combat capability; and

D. To maintain seaworthiness.

all within a financial limit of $217 million, divided, as you see here, into $138 million from capital funds and $79 million from operating and maintenance funds.

Departmental approval was received 13 February, 1979 for an alternative which best met the criteria. The proposal involved a progressive program whereby the oldest ships would receive only the minimum required to maintain seagoing safety, while those requiring the longest extension would receive sufficient funds to enable their present combat capability to be maintained. The proposal further stated that the work required to mainteain seagoing safety would be funded from Departmental O & M appropriations. NDHQ authorized an immediate start on the “safe to go to sea” portion of the progam for all ships. It was further directed that the three Restigouche Class ships in Class C Reserve would not be reactivated and that the combat capability of the six Improved St. Laurent (ISL) Class ships would be maintained only to the level possible with existing installed equipment.

The portion of the project to be funded from Capital appropriations would only involve the two Annapolis Class ships, the four ships of the Improved Restigouche (IRE) Class, and the four ships of the MacKenzie (MZ) Class.

I will now briefly describe the content of the DELEX Program under three separate headings.

The first of these is the “safe-for-sea” package which includes, among others, the items you see listed here. You will recall that these items are funded from O & M appropriations, and are primarily designed to reduce the risk level of continued operation of aging hulls and equipment:
Midship Repair: I will deal with this item in greater detail when I discuss specific problems. Suffice it to say, at this point, that it applies only to the ISL Class ships, and corrects a major structural problem peculiar to these ships.

Miscellaneous Hull Repairs: Repeated hull surveys of our ships revealed a series of common problem areas, due to corrosion, which were likely to occur in all ships, in due course. A number of standard repair items were prepared, and inserted in the refit “catalogue” mentioned earlier. Typically, these items cover corrosion-prone areas such as machinery bilges, main circulating water inlet pipes, etc. I will give a specific example of miscellaneous hull repairs when I deal with some typical problems a bit later.

Tailshaft Wrapping: We discovered that running ships to the limits of their design lifespan is not only hard on the hull, but reveals other, equally ominous signs of age, such as erosion and corrosion of the shafting to the point where continued operation could encroach considerably on the safety factor due to reduction in the “wall” thickness of the hollow tailshaft. To extend the life of the shafting, tailshafts are removed, sent to a machine shop, and clad in an inert fiberglas and epoxy layer which protects them from the turbulent and corrosive environment. Submariners among you, if any, will no doubt be aware that such cladding is common practice in submarines, so the wrapping of destroyer tailshafts is not revolutionary, by any means. It is merely part of the price we have to pay for extending the useful lives of our ships.

Specific Problem notes: These apply to several specifics.

Midship Repair:

  • ISL Class only;
  • Area of cross-passage;
  • Area of expansion joint;
  • Fatigue loading;
  • Dirty steel (delaminations, inclusions);
  • The fix: Better continuity between structural members, heavier and cleaner steel, extensive renewal;
  • Expensive

Boiler cracks:

  • Attributed to age/stress cycles (graphitic migration);
  • Repairs not possible in situ;
  • Repair by replacement.

Miscellaneous Repairs:

  • Rudder cladding - ultrasonics;
  • Blind bilges;
  • Pre-priced;
  • NDT first;
  • Minimum delays.

Diesel Corrosion:

  • “Emergency” repairs (Devcon);
  • Became ineffective with age;
  • Requires removal of crankcase/diesel from ship.

Flight deck trough:

  • Relatively new structure (ISL conversion);
  • Major upheaval of flight deck;
  • Repair is practical compromise.

Main condenser re-tubing:

  • Access is difficult;
  • Age-related.

I will not discuss the other items on this slide in detail. Most of them are self-explanatory, if I tell you that they are merely replacements of key equipment which became unsupportable and which had to be upgraded with equipment which was more reliable, start-of-the-art, and for which replacement parts could be found.

This slide shows the bulk of the combat capability package, which, you will recall, is not being fitted in the ISL Class ships, and is being fitted in whole or in part to more recent classes, depending on their age and configuration.

I will not delve into these items in detail, since they, also are self-explanatory. Much of the package consists of conversion of various components to solid state electronics, in the interest of maintainability and reliability. Items in this package, unlike some electronics equipment in the previous slide, are funded from Capital appropriations and are designed to maintain combat capability as opposed to ensuring seaworthiness and safety at sea.

Last but not least, this slide illustrates a number of “stand alone” items. Although not funded from DELEX, most of these items compete for the same real estate (primarily in the Operations Room) as the DELEX items, and were due to be fitted at the same time, and have been grouped with DELEX items for engineering and management purposes. Most of these items are designed to improve and maintain our interoperability with our NATO allies, so that we can continue to train our ship’s crews at the state of the art.


Gentlemen, I have covered a lot of ground this evening, and I fear that the amount of detail may be a case of overkill. If I have, I apologize. However, I hope that I have conveyed a message or two.

Firstly, I believe that our system of contracting and conducting refits, namely along the lines of the multi-ship concept which I described, is big business, and sound business, which contains some uniquely Canadian initiatives which other navies could probably emulate. The concept is one which was developed independently from the need to extend the life of our ships, and is a credit to the senior managers of the early-to-mid seventies. We retain a legacy of problems from bygone days, and I would be more than willing to discuss these during the question period.

Secondly, the manner in which we are “maintaining the old while anticipating the new” is indicative of the Navy’s ingenuity and the “can-do” approach for which we have always been known. Rather than be pessimistic over the fact that our efforts to extend the life of our ships were prompted by the lack of replacement ships, I contend that our achievements show some spunk and opportunism which otherwise could have created far more serious degradation of our fleet. It isn’t all “doom and gloom”, and is indicative that the Navy’s fighting spirit continues to give us the most bang for the buck, however stretched it may become.

Finally, I hope I have given you cause to believe that the Navy is still the exciting and challenging life that you have known it to be. As someone once said in our other Official Language, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I am convinced that the challenges and frustrations of maintaining the old will sustain us well into the introduction of the new, which will introduce new problems bearing many resemblances to those we have experienced in the past, and continue to experience today.

To quote another favorite expression, and I’m sure this one originated in the Navy, “If you can’t take a joke, you shouldn’t have joined.”

Gentlement, thank you.