Feds didn’t fully assess requirements in towing vessel contract: tribunal

OTTAWA—Canada’s International Trade Tribunal says the federal government should reassess its decision to award a contract for two emergency towing vessels off the coast of British Columbia.

The $67-million contract was awarded by Public Services and Procurement Canada in August to Atlantic Towing Ltd. and the boats are now in operation.

They are to be used on contract by the Canadian Coast Guard to improve its ability to tow away broken-down vessels in B.C. waters before they become hazards to other boats and marine life.

In September a complaint was made to the trade tribunal by Horizon Maritime Services and the Heiltsuk Nation, which had formed a partnership to bid on the contract together.

Horizon and Heiltsuk allege Public Services didn’t fully assess all the requirements it set out for the boats.

The tribunal agrees and recommends the department reassess one of the specific safety requirements to ensure the towing vessels can safely pull the required weight.

The tribunal recommends the contract continue pending the reassessment but says if it is found that another bid actually was stronger than Atlantic Towing’s, the contract be terminated.

If the best bid is determined to have come from Horizon and Heiltsuk, they should be compensated for any money they lost out on in the process, the tribunal’s ruling says.

Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett says winning the contract would be a huge economic help to her community.

A government official speaking on background said the government is still assessing the recommendations made by the tribunal. For the time being the new boats remain in service.

The towing vessels are one of the key elements of the federal government’s Oceans Protection Plan. The $1.5-billion plan is critical to the government’s hope to convince Canadians it can expand the economy, including by building new oil and gas pipelines, and still protect the environment.