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NEWS RELEASE February 21, 2003

Shipyard Workers' Federation challenges BC Ferries to release secret budget for construction of new Bowen Island ferry after rejecting BC shipyard that submitted lowest qualified bid; says BC Ferries could use new federal program to lower costs

VANCOUVER - The Shipyard General Workers' Federation is challenging BC Ferries to release its secret budget to construct a new 118-vehicle Bowen Island ferry worth an estimated $30 million, after BC Ferries refused to give the contract to a BC shipyard that was the lowest qualified bidder in an international competition for the work.

And the Federation says BC Ferries could use a new federal government shipbuilding incentive program to reduce its costs by up to 15 percent.

Mark Stefanson, BC Ferries Vice-President, Corporate Communications, said Wednesday that the corporation could not afford the low bid and will be re-tendering the project again and inviting foreign shipyards to bid on the project.

Federation president George MacPherson says BC shipyards and workers are being put in an impossible situation by BC Ferries.

"How can we ever win if a BC shipyard beats international shipyards in a fair and open competition by putting in the lowest qualified bid and then BC Ferries goes and cancels the tender? If they have a secret budget number, tell people what it is and then let us propose what kind of ship they would get for that amount of money," says MacPherson. "But wasting everyone's time and money with bids that go nowhere is ridiculous."

MacPherson said BC Ferries could have taken advantage of a federal government financing program designed to help Canadian shipyards win shipbuilding contracts against foreign bidders. The new federal Structured Financing Facility program provides incentives worth up to 15 percent of the purchase price of a new vessel if it is built in Canada.

Last fall BC Ferries issued a tender to nine shipyards in five countries, including Japan, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands and Canada, he said.

MacPherson says it is the second time since BC Ferries and the province announced a new policy of inviting foreign shipyards to make bids on BC work that local shipyards have been the lowest bidders. Vancouver Shipyards also was low bidder on the first of five ferry refits, for the Queen of Coquitlam, beating out bids from China, Korea, Singapore and the United States last year.

For more information, contact George MacPherson at 604-254-8204.

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