MV Asterix

Tsunami Warnings, Supply Ships and Disaster Relief in BC

On 23 January 2018 at 3 am, sirens wailed, warnings were broadcast and evacuations began. Coastal British Columbia was in the path of a tsunami.

A 7.9 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Alaska caused Environment Canada to issue a tsunami warning. The warning was cancelled three hours later. As officials evaluate their emergency plans following the event, it is timely to review rescue and recovery plans if a tsunami had hit the BC coast.

M/V Asterix, the new Interim AOR leased by the Royal Canadian Navy, has humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) capabilities. From naval base Esquimalt, such a ship could respond relatively quickly. Anchored off shore the ship could use her landing craft, small boats and helicopters to deliver aid and evacuate casualties to the ship’s hospital. A mexeflote raft could land heavy construction equipment on the beach to aid in recovery. If local infrastructure is damaged or destroyed, Asterix could provide electricity and drinking water to restore services.

Davie shipyard converted Asterix from a container ship to an AOR in two years. A second sister ship could be converted and available as soon as early 2020, if a decision is made soon. All too quickly, the team that designed Asterix and the hundreds of workers that converted her will move on to other projects.

With no delivery date for the new RCN supply ships that are planned to be built, there is speculation about an AOR capability gap ranging from month to years. Asterix is a replenishment ship with HADR capabilties. The tsunami warning in British Columbia is a reminder that those HADR capabilities could be needed and deployed at home. It may have been a false alarm this time, but it might not be next time. It wouldn’t be the first time a tsunami has hit – on 28 March 1964 Port Alberni, BC was hit by a tsunami.

If you’re interested, take a look at “Resolve: Helping Canada Help Others,” a short YouTube video by Davie Shipbuilding demonstrating how Asterix could respond to such a disaster.

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