Canadian Coast Guard awards MEMTV, OPV contracts

Good news there for the Canadian Coast Guard. Their current fleet of medium endurance vessels dates to the 1960s-1980s and, while there’s life in an old body, only 1 of these is scheduled for a refit during the next 10-yr cycle. The addition of 5 new MEMTVs to the fleet will ease any anxiety over the CCG’s longer-term operational capability.

Vancouver Shipyards awarded another 10 NSPS vessels

OCTOBER 7, 2013 — Diane Finley, Canada’s Minister of Public Works and Government, says that Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards will build an additional 10 non-combat vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard at an estimated cost of Canadian $3.3 billion..

The new ships, confirmed during a visit to the shipyard today by Minister Finley and James Moore, Minister of Industry and Regional Minister for British Columbia, increase Seaspan’s non-combat build package to 17 ships from the seven ships originally announced on October 19,

The additional ships are five Medium Endurance Multi-Tasked Vessels (MEMTVs) and five Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs).

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to build the next generation of vessels for the men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy,” said Brian Carter, President – Seaspan Shipyards. “Today’s announcement marks the latest milestone in the future of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) and the rebirth of the shipbuilding industry in British Columbia.

“We are one year into our Shipyard Modernization Project, and with approximately one year remaining, the transformation of Vancouver Shipyards has been profound,” added Mr. Carter. “In addition to the progress on facilities, we are making a huge investment in people, processes and tools. We continue to recruit the best and brightest engineers, project managers and procurement personnel to join the Seaspan team and look forward next year to increasing the number of unionized tradesmen and women once we commence construction of our first ship under the NSPS project.”

Nope. Not gonna translate this article into French. All that “Garde côtière canadienne” stuff is down to you folks.

Canadian Coast Guard helicopter crashes in Arctic Ocean, 3 dead

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark.
– Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Arctic coast guard helicopter crash kills 3

The crash occurred on Monday evening in the McClure Strait, about 600 kilometres west of Resolute. (ArcticNet)

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board is investigating a tragic incident in which three men were killed Monday when the helicopter they were on crashed into the Arctic Ocean.

The helicopter was on a reconnaissance mission at the time, travelling with the Amundsen, a coast guard icebreaker. There were no survivors.

The men who died were:

  • Marc Thibault, commanding officer of the CCGS Amundsen.
  • Daniel Dubé, helicopter pilot.
  • Klaus Hochheim, an Arctic scientist affiliated with the University of Manitoba.

The Amundsen had recently departed Resolute on a research voyage.

This map shows the location of the crash, about 600 kilometres west of Resolute, in the Northwest Passage north of Banks Island. (CBC)

The crash occurred at 8 p.m. ET (6 p.m. MT) Monday in the McClure Strait, about 600 kilometres west of Resolute. The McClure Strait is north of Banks Island on the opposite side of the island from Sachs Harbour, N.W.T.

The helicopter, a Messerschmitt BO 105S, was doing a reconnaissance mission on the state of the ice in the area when it crashed.

A spokesperson with the Coast Guard said Tuesday that weather conditions in the area of the crash were “clear, with good visibility.”

The first responder to the crash site was the Amundsen itself. The crew was able to recover the three victims, and are returning to Resolute with their bodies. All three were wearing standard issue orange survival suits.

Marc Thibault, commanding officer of the CCGS Amundsen, was killed Monday when the helicopter he was on crashed into the Arctic Ocean. (DFO)

Louis Fortier, the scientific director of the mission of which the three men were part, said their deaths came as a shock.

“Commandant Thibault and Daniel and Klaus were friends,” he said. “And this is the main message this morning, it’s the sadness for those people with whom we’ve been working with for 10 years now and it’s a major loss.”

The ship is expected to arrive back in Resolute on Wednesday.

Psychologists will be there when the ship arrives to offer support to the nearly 80 crew members and researchers aboard the Amundsen.

Helicopter Pilot Daniel Dubé, who was killed in the crash, was born in Abitibi, Que., in 1957. (DFO)

TSB reviewing incident

Thibault was born in L’Islet in the Chaudiere Appalaches region of Quebec in 1965. Dubé was born in Abitibi, Que., in 1957. He was married with four children. Hochheim was 55 years old. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

“Klaus was a friend and colleague. We’re devastated at the news of his passing,” said Tim Papakyriakou, one of Hochheim’s colleagues at the University of Manitoba. “He was a veteran of high Arctic field campaigns and an outstanding research scientist. We extend heartfelt condolences to his family. He will be sorely missed by all.”

Klaus Hochheim, 55, a passenger killed in Monday’s helicopter crash in the McClure Strait, was an Arctic scientist affiliated with the University of Manitoba. (DFO)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also issued a statement on the death of the three men.

“On behalf of Canadians, Laureen and I offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of [the victims],” Harper said. “It is a grim reminder of the very real dangers faced on a regular basis by those brave individuals who conduct research and patrol our Arctic – one of the harshest and most challenging climates in the world – to better understand and protect Canada’s North.”

“The courage and dedication of these three brave individuals will be honoured and remembered,” the PM said.

The vessel had gone through a full crew change on Sept. 5 in Resolute.

The coast guard spokesperson said it is standard practice for helicopters to depart on reconnaissance missions to gauge ice around the ship following a crew change.

The Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday it is probing the crash.

“One of our biggest challenges is that there are no eyewitnesses,” said John Lee, who is with the TSB in Edmonton. “And of course the helicopter itself, which is going to have a lot of important information for us, is located at the bottom of McClure Strait so until we retrieve the wreckage it’s going to be difficult to be able to come to any kind of determination as to cause or any underlying issues.”

Lee said the TSB is still trying to figure out how it’s going to retrieve the helicopter. It’s about 450 metres under water north of Banks Island.

The last time a coast guard helicopter crashed was in 2005 in Marystown, Nfld.

PHOTEX: HMCS Shawinigan alongside CCGS Pierre Radisson

HMCS Shawinigan pulls alongside the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Pierre Radisson off the coast of Resolution Island, Nunavut during Operation Nanook on August 20, 2013. Photo: Cpl I. Thompson

Replacing the Royal Canadian Navy’s aging destroyers, oilers

If you want an example of a hard-working navy then look no further than the Royal Canadian Navy who still manage to do so much (CMF, SNMG1, etc.) despite having a fleet of aging ships.

Dear Lord! The Protector-class oilers are nearly as old as I am. (Guess on a postcard, please.) Political considerations mean that the replacements will likely have to be ordered from a Canadian builder, which rules out the economies of scale offered by joined the UK’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary in procurement of the MARS tanker.

The Iroquois-class destroyers are also showing their age – launched between 1970 and 1972, and commissioned in ’72. These workhorses have been in commission for over 40-years and a replacement is long-overdue. Again, domestic political considerations mean that any replacement will have to be built (or led) by Canadian yards. This prevented the RCN from procuring either the Royal Navy’s Type 45 or the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class.

So what will Canada buy… and when?

Canadian government to make decision on shipbuilding projects in the fall

The Canadian Coast Guard is also designing a new polar-class icebreaker, the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker, to replace its existing heavy icebreaker, the Louis S. St-Laurent (pictured), which is due to be retired in 2017. Photograph by: Handout/Fisheries and Oceans Canada , Postmedia News

OTTAWA — The federal government will decide in the fall whether resupplying Canada’s navy or Arctic sovereignty is more important.

The Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard have been in fits in recent months as each has major shipbuilding projects scheduled to be ready for construction at the same time around 2015.

But the Vancouver shipyard slated to build them can only handle one project at a time, meaning work on either the Navy’s new resupply ships or the Coast Guard’s new polar icebreaker will have to be delayed.

Senior officials briefing reporters on background on the government’s $35-billion national shipbuilding strategy Friday confirmed the conflict and said a decision is coming.

“It is clear that the decision will require that the production and delivery schedule for one of the projects be adjusted to accommodate the construction of the other,” said one Public Works official who could not be identified. “The final decision as to which project goes first will be made in the fall of 2013.”

There are major ramifications associated with putting off either project.

The Navy’s existing 50-year-old resupply ships are environmentally unsound and prohibitively expensive to maintain, while the Coast Guard’s existing heavy icebreaker is also near the end of its life.

In addition, a delay to either project will have financial repercussions because of inflation and other increased costs, which means the government will have to either put in more money or accept fewer or less capable ships.

National Defence, the Coast Guard and the Public Works department will spend the summer assessing the potential impacts of delaying either project so an informed decision can be made.

“The decision will be based on a comprehensive assessment that will consider operational impacts such as the need to include ship-life extension and refit costs for existing vessels,” the Public Works official said. “The assessment will also include the readiness of each ship design, schedule optimization and risks.”

One Coast Guard official, who also could not be identified, said a study is already looking into what work will need to be done to keep the 44-year-old Louis S. St-Laurent heavy icebreaker in the water past its 2017 retirement date.

“That’ll involve some investment in that vessel if we are to keep her in service should we not be the first of the large shipbuilds,” he said.

University of Calgary defence expert Rob Huebert said the Louis S. St-Laurent is nearing the end of her life and desperately needed, but so are new resupply ships, especially as Canada looks to increase its military presence in the Pacific Ocean.

“So there isn’t an obvious clear answer as to which should go first,” he said. “The answer is both of them should go first, but you can’t do that. So there’s going to be some real hard decisions.”

The government officials maintained, however, that both the Navy and Coast Guard are not contemplating stabbing each other in the back to make sure their ships are chosen first.

“It’s important to understand that we’re working on this together,” said one naval officer. “It is the government’s fleet … We’re just at the beginning of the detailed work on that, and we are working together to produce it and to come up with the best options, the best solution for Canada.”

Meanwhile, the officials maintained confidence the shipyards in Vancouver and Halifax responsible for overseeing the majority of work associated with the $35-billion shipbuilding plan will be able to scale up and begin cutting steel soon.

Physical work on the first offshore fisheries and science vessels is scheduled to begin in Vancouver in 2014 and 2015, respectively, while the navy’s new Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels are to start coming together in Halifax in 2015.

A schedule for work on the first replacements for the Navy’s existing destroyers and frigates, which will also be built in Halifax, hasn’t been decided yet.

The government also announced $488 million for about two-dozen smaller Coast Guard lifeboats and science vessels earlier this week, contracts for which will be bid on by shipyards that aren’t part of the larger shipbuilding work.