POLITICS

Restoration of Bluenose II encounters another problem, this time with steering

04/16/2014 02:45 EDT | Updated 06/16/2014 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - An apparent mechanical problem on the restored Bluenose II left Nova Scotia's tourism minister unable to say Wednesday whether the schooner will be able to sail this spring as hoped.

Michel Samson said work is underway on the vessel's steering and rudder to address a problem in turning the ship's wheel.

"They are looking now at the steering components and everything else attached to that to see exactly what could be causing it and to find a solution," said Samson.

The Heritage Department said a date for sea trials has not been set and Samson said that once they're completed, the Bluenose II will return to the water.

The goal is to have the vessel sailing as quickly as possible, Samson said, but he wouldn't say whether that meant later in the spring or in the summer.

"We want to make sure she has passed all of her inspections and is going to be a safe vessel that is going to be able to carry out its full sailing schedule this year."

The Progressive Conservative party's tourism critic, Karla MacFarlane, said it's time the government gave a firm commitment as to when the ship will sail.

"It's especially important during this time of season, given the tourism industry has a huge impact," said MacFarlane.

The restoration of the schooner has been plagued by delays. The project is over budget and Samson said the province's auditor general will review the restoration once it is complete.

The original budget for the project was $12.5 million. The latest estimate stands at $16.7 million, but the government has said labour costs will push that amount higher.

The fabled schooner, known as Nova Scotia's sailing ambassador, was supposed to return to regular sailing in the summer of 2012 after an extensive two-year rebuild.

In January, Premier Stephen McNeil said his government's goal was to have the boat back in the water in the spring.

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