A CBC News investigation has uncovered a $250-million mystery at the heart of Canada's ambitious shipbuilding program.
Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose and Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced March 7 in Halifax that Ottawa will pay Irving Shipbuilding $288 million just to design – not build – a fleet of new Arctic offshore patrol ships.
Irving will then build the ships under a separate contract.
However, a survey of similar patrol ships bought by other countries shows they paid a fraction of that $288 million to actually build the ships – and paid less than a tenth as much for the design.
In addition, the design of Canada's new ships is based upon a Norwegian vessel whose design Ottawa has already bought for just $5 million.
The Norwegian ship, the Svalbard, was designed and built for less than $100 million in 2002.
Experts say the design price is normally 10-20 per cent of the total cost of the ships.
Another country with Arctic interests, Denmark, acquired two patrol ships for $105 million in 2007.
They have modest ice-breaking capability, similar to the Canadian project, which allows for the ships to crunch through "summer ice" – about one-metre thick.
The Irish navy now is building two offshore patrol ships for $125 million.
In all cases, these prices include the design.