The announcement earlier this year that Irving Shipbuilding (Booths 1801 and M7) would design and build the 15 Canadian Surface Combatants was a significant boost to the company.
But a problem remained: how to keep the cross-Canada supply chain and its 2,000 employees – most of whom are concentrated at Halifax Shipyards and the surrounding region – busy until then?
Irving Shipbuilding invested more than C$400 million in the shipyard, which is located next to the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN’s) east coast docking facility, after it was chosen to build the combat portion of the ships to be bought as part of the country’s national shipbuilding strategy. So having it idle, even for short periods of time, would have been prohibitively expensive.
This week, the Canadian government announced that it will be buying a seventh and eighth ice-capable, multi-purpose Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS).
Irving officials said the deal, coupled with ongoing maintenance work on the country’s Halifax-class frigates, will keep a steady workflow at the yard until CSC construction starts, likely in 2023.
Unlike the first six ships in the category, which will be assigned to the RCN, the latest two will be assigned to the Coast Guard, although they will play a similar patrol and sovereignty role.
The first AOPS ship in the Harry DeWolf-class, the eponymous Harry DeWolf, was launched late last year. The second ship, to be named HMCS Margaret Brooke, is now structurally assembled. Irving is currently building three more ships in the category and had already been contracted to build the RCN’s sixth ship.
Arctic sovereignty is a growing issue for Canadians. Earlier this month, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo described Canada’s claim to the Northwest passage as “illegitimate”. Canadian officials view the comment as a rebuke of a 1988 agreement reached by the then prime minister Brian Mulroney and US president Ronald Reagan, in which the US agreed to seek Canadian consent when its ships entered the disputed territories. China has also demonstrated interest in the waterways.