Naval support to disaster relief/humanitarian assistance?


If the Canadian navy had possessed a large ship available to deploy in the case of such incidents as the Haitian Earthquake: an AOR, JSS, Large Deck Amphib, or a RoRo Vessel taken up from trade, it could have taken huge quantities of building supplies, mechanized vehicles such as bull dozers, back-hoes, 4 Wheel Drive SUVs, and landing craft, all of which would have greatly increased the capability of sea-borne and sea-based assistance to the Haitian people. In 1992, HMC Ships Preserver and Protecteur were deployed from Halifax with construction materials and vehicles, the Naval Construction Troop, and their ships' companies of skilled technicians to the Bahamas and to Florida after major hurricanes.

Large ships: purpose-built naval vessels or perhaps a leased Roll-on/Roll-off merchant ship, can carry a quantity of relief and construction supplies equivalent to hundreds of flights of C-17 transport aircraft and can then remain on station in the disaster area for extended periods as a mobile headquarters, floating hospital, or a Rest & Recreation site for exhausted relief workers - to name only a few potential roles.

Unfortunately the current 40-year old AORs are not in good-enough material condition that they can be readily available at short notice for such tasking. This was the case in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina devastated the US Gulf Coast and a Canadian Coast Guard vessel deployed with her bulk-cargo capacity together with a Halifax-based naval task group.  The only East Coast AOR at the time, HMCS Preserver, was just emerging from a major refit and not available for operations. Modern vessels with the capacity to carry bulk cargo or act as mobile bases, such as the planned Joint Support Ships, are a true national resource in time of conflict or disaster.