The Canadian Shipbuilding Gap

7 November 2018. The recent announcement by the Minister of National Defence in Halifax Shipyards that a sixth Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) would be built and the welcome news for Davie and Vancouver Shipyards to administer the Halifax-class refits in the near future is great news for all shipyard workers and the Canadian shipbuilding industry as a whole. Yes, the 18 month gap between the conclusion of the AOPS project and the start-up of the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) project has been narrowed slightly, and this will keep a few more jobs in place, for the time being, but it is still ‘A Bridge Too Far.’ The ‘boom-to-bust’ cycle that has always loomed over our shipbuilding industry across Canada will still be there, and will raise its ugly head once again, if the Canadian government does not present a more permanent solution to this problem.

What is required by the government soonest, is to finally give some ‘teeth’ to our shipbuilding industry with an updated Naval Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS). The question is: Is the government really serious about Canadian shipbuilding now and in the future or just paying lip-service to the masses? Anyone with vision can see that if we stay on this course, we will never kill this cycle of false hopes for all Canadians. A more realistic NSS would already have a new fleet of 12 modern strategic submarines in its policy to replace our beleaguered Victoria-class SSKs as part of its strategy, along with a programme to build a strategic amphibious sealift capability, such as three Juan Carlos-class LHDs. A second Polar-class icebreaker built in Vancouver, and repaired, refitted and upgraded in Halifax would be a great boost to the Canadian Coast Guard (CCS) as well.

Going hand-in-hand with this updated policy would be a structured repair, refit and upgrade policy for all our naval vessels in the future, for each shipyard. For example, the Vancouver shipyard would take care of most West Coast repairs, refits and upgrades of West Coast CCS ships with Halifax taking care of all East Coast CCS ships. Vancouver would refit, repair and upgrade the new Joint Support Ships (JSS). Davie Shipyards would build a second Resolve-class Interim AOR to augment the MV Asterix. The new Canadian Surface Combatant ship refits and equipment enhancements along with building, refitting and updates for the three new LHD ships could be shared between Halifax, Vancouver and Davie Shipyards. The new fleet of 12 modern submarines would have shared build/refit contracts between Halifax and Davie Shipyards.  Any future ships envisioned by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) or CCG would go to tender for bidding by all three shipyards. This new build, repair, refit and upgrade policy would go a very long way to ensure a thriving shipbuilding industry was alive and well in Canada far into the future!


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