Mark Collins – Why not more Canadian Coast Guard Icebreakers Instead of RCN JSS?

To set the scene, the end of an earlier post (both types of ship are to be built by Seaspan, Vancouver–the icebreaker afterthe two Joint Support Ships which are supposed to start construction around 2016 with the CCG ship delivered 2021-22[hah!]):

Meanwhile the Canadian Coast Guard is getting only one new icebreaker, sometime next decade:

The Great Canadian National Shipbuilding Procurement Screw-Up (aka NSPS), Icebreaker Section, Part 2

Just look at the age of the CCG’s fleet of larger icebreakers–the youngest was built in 1987, some 28 years ago. ‘Nuff said about this [Conservative] government’s commitment to core federal responsibilities.

Then consider the Navy’s Joint Support Ship program:

Seaspan Building Joint Support Ships for RCN: No Smooth Sailing

And then note what this Quebec shipbuilder–not part of the main National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy construction program–has been doing (see also “Comments”):

RCN Joint Support Ship Stopgap: Feds Talking with Davie, Québec, Part 2

Finally there’s this:

Royal Canadian Navy to be given option to purchase interim supply ship

The Royal Canadian Navy will be able to eventually purchase the interim supply ship that it expects to start using around 2017.

As Defence Watch readers know, the ship, the Asterix, is at Davie shipyards in Quebec, ready to undergo conversion into an interim supply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy. The ship will help the RCN deal with the supply ship gap (Canada no longer has any) until the Joint Support Ships arrive in 2020-2021.

A deal still has to be reached between the federal government and Davie/Project Resolve (the firm providing such services to the RCN). But as previously reported on Defence Watch that is expected to be in place and ready to go by 2017.

Project Resolve will offer the services of Asterix until the second JSS is ready. But military and industry sources tell Defence Watch that after the service agreement runs its course, the Royal Canadian Navy will have the option – if so inclined – to buy Asterix.

Will it make that purchase of the interim supply ship? We should know closer to the end of the service contact.

Davie and Project Resolve had a proposal to offer Canada two such interim supply ships (Asterix has a sister ship which could also be converted).

But the Department of National Defence told Defence Watch recently that the RCN isn’t interested.

“A contract for the services of a second converted vessel is not being considered by the Royal Canadian Navy,” DND spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said [BUT WHEN THE NEW LIBERAL GOVERNMENT COMES IN?].

Nice image of the planned Davie ship (scroll down for more images and comments on the project at


So, going forward: why not just ditch the JSS and get two/three of the Davie ships instead?  And instead of two JSS acquire two more new icebreakers for the CCG also to be built by Seaspan?  Good politics all around, especially in la Belle Province, and no public downsides I can see.  Indeed the two more icebreakers should cost about the same as two JSS, some $1.3 billion (yikes!) each.

Nice warm and fuzzy Arctic angle–and the Coast Guard really does need more than one new icebreaker.  Plus who needs super-duperish Joint Support Ships with some onshore expeditionary military operations sustainment capability when the Liberal government is most unlikely to engage in those sorts of missions (the Davie ship could certainly do disaster relief)?

Everyone is happy.  Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


9 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Why not more Canadian Coast Guard Icebreakers Instead of RCN JSS?”

  1. At (Queenston-class are the Berlin-based JSS):

    Differences between Queenston Class AOR and Asterix Class Converted AOR

    Queenston Class has double the helicopter capacity of the Asterix (4 vs 2)
    Queenston has hospital facilities
    Queenston has some minor armament
    Queenston has capacity for easily handling vehicles
    Queenston likely has much more complete and well-designed damage control systems…”,17282.msg1397433.html#msg1397433

    I.e. the JSS are much better for on-shore support.

    Mark Collins

    1. Interesting–more at

      “…it is the opinion in discussion in my section which includes a NavArc, who was on the JSS PMO at one point, that the Asterix will deliver most of what the Queenstowns will at a substancial savings in both time and money. Especially if Davies delivers in 18 months and there is no reason why they can’t. Our money say’s what will be, that if it all pans out, they’ll do another Asterix part deux and JSS is going to be quietly shelved…”,17282.msg1397498.html#msg1397498


      Mark Collins

  2. I view this differently. I remember when the two ship yards were announced and every one claimed it was a new glorious era of government procurement. 2 years later it’s the SOP train wreck.

    They should have picked one shipyard, a Canadian owned shipyard. They should have told the owner that if they wanted the government to pay for the upgrades and to get all this nice juicy government gravy they had to agree that the government would be able to veto the sale of the shipyard to any foreigners. If no suitable Canadian owned shipyard was available they should have just built one or bought one.

    Once the shipyard was up to snuff they should have started designing and building ships. They wouldn’t have gotten all they wanted in time and would have had to out source some. That would have made the whole project more affordable. More importantly they would have been able to focus all their resources on one shipyard and been able to get it up to being a productive and cost effective (relative) level easier, cheaper, faster. Once they figured every thing out in one shipyard then they could take that expertise and expand it to a second shipyard.

    Since the bidding between the two shipyards that was supposed to happened disappeared, maybe Davie Quebec sticking it’s nose in is the best we can hope for.

  3. Modernizing an ancient CCG ‘breaker–note final para on what is done in the winter:

    “ABB Breathes New Life into Canadian Icebreaker

    ABB modernization to extend service of 38-year-old Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker; upgrade includes improved connectivity and eight new drives

    ABB will modernize a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, installing the latest hardware and software onboard the 38 year old Pierre Radisson. As part of the complete upgrade to the ship’s power distribution system, eight new drives will also be installed. The contract includes the option to modernize the other two Coast Guard ships, Des Groseilliers and Amundsen, both of which have clocked up more than 30 years of service…

    Design and supply work is scheduled to begin immediately and installation and commissioning is expected to be finished by June 2017. In winter, the Pierre Radisson breaks ice and escorts ships in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the St. Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers. In summer, the ship travels to the Canadian Arctic to escort commercial ships, serve as a primary search and rescue unit and provide support to scientific missions when possible…”

    Keep ’em going to the half century or something as only that one new one is planned.

    Work likely to be done at Davie, Quebec:

    Mark Collins

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