What about sea-based support for the arctic patrol ship?

The announcement of the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship programme stated, "There is currently insufficient infrastructure in both Esquimalt and Halifax to berth the A/OPS. As a result, some additional jetty infrastructure renewal would be required. The project will also establish a docking and refuelling facility in Nunavut. These infrastructure costs - estimated at approximately $274 million - will be included in the A/OPS budget."

Nuuk Port Facilities

There is no doubt that there should be docking and refuelling facilities in the Canadian Arctic, and that this is an essential element in supporting the desired increased naval presence and economic development in our Far North. One need only look at the excellent deep-water port facilities at Nuuk, in South-West Greenland, as an example.Nevertheless, there are other ways to provide docking and refuelling facilities, especially while a suitable site is being developed ashore. My proposal is that we consider a sea-going mobile support base: a Depot Ship which could be moved to a number of locations as necessary to provide fuel, food and fresh water, second-line maintenance for helicopters and UAVs, administrative support for the small crews likely planned for the A/OPS, and a broad range of other necessary assistance. A double-hull tanker purchased or leased from commercial sources, with liquid cargo-capacity sufficient to support extended operation and facilities added to operate and maintain helicopters - manned and un-manned - would be a good start. Alternatively, perhaps an icebreaker or Ice Patrol Ship that is past its prime, i.e. not really up to aggressive ice-breaking duties any more but certainly capable of operations in the summer Arctic navigation season and possessing sufficient volume for liquid cargo and spaces that could be converted to maintenance workshops and administrative spaces.All fuel, food, spares, etc to support operations by A/OPS in the Far North are going to have to come from southern Canada anyway; why not leave these necessities in the same ship that transports them into the North, the Depot Ship, until they are needed by the Patrol Vessel(s). If necessary, a tanker or other vessel could deploy from Halifax or Esquimalt to rendezvous with the Depot Ship to top off her supplies.

Destroyer Depot Ship HMAS Stalwart (no longer in service)

Another good reason to consider such a mobile base is that Arctic harbours have a nasty habit of becoming clogged with ice at times. I remember an exercise conducted off northern Labrador in 1971, after which the AOR was unable to go into Frobisher Bay (now Iqaluit) for a scheduled Governor-General's visit: an offshore wind had unexpectedly pushed ice flows into the bay. A Depot Ship could simply weigh anchor and proceed to another location if there was such a threat of ice movement.