Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel (MCDVs) Replacements

By David Dunlop, 3 July 2023

The 12 Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (Kingston-class) were built between 1993-1998 and have been in commission with the RCN since 1996. The multi-purpose nature of the MCDVs led to their mixed construction between both commercial and naval standards. The class is split equally between the east and west coasts of Canada and regularly deploy overseas to West Africa, Europe, Central America and the Caribbean.

In May 1992, a $650 million CAD contract was awarded to Halifax Shipyards of Halifax, Nova Scotia to construct 12 ships of the class. The main mission of these vessels was to train both regular and reserve sailors in coastal patrol, minesweeping, anti-piracy and anti-drug operations, law enforcement, pollution surveillance and search and rescue duties. Steel cutting for the first ship began in December 1993 and by July 1999, all 12 Kingston-class ships were in service. The ships are evenly distributed between the East and West Coasts with one vessel on each coast maintained for rapid deployment. The crews are a mix of reservists for training with a permanent regular force RCN personnel for basic crew. The class deploy regularly as part of Operation Caribbe in the Caribbean Sea and the Central American Pacific coast. The ships also deploy to the Arctic as part of Operation Nanook, and in naval operations off the west coast of Africa and in the Baltic Sea among others.

            There were several criteria for the design. The ships had to be built in Canada, they had to be inexpensive to build, the design had to have role flexibility included, and they had to be inexpensive to operate. The design originally called for steel-hulled mine countermeasures vessels and training ships. They were built to commercial standards to reduce costs with the exception of stability, maneuverability and the magazines which were constructed to naval standards. Their mixed construction is visible with their two square, separated funnels which were cheaper to manufacture, however they have poor seakeeping and a large radar signature. 

They have a standard displacement of 772 tonnes (760 long tons) light and 979 t (964 long tons) fully loaded. During sea trials, the vessels were found to be too top heavy with a further 8.9 long tons of permanent ballast added. The ships measure 55.31 metres (181 ft 6 in) long overall and 49 m (160 ft 9 in) between perpendiculars with a beam of 11.3 m (37 ft 1 in) and a draught of 3.42 m (11 ft 3 in). The class has a maximum crew of 47, with crew sizes changing depending on the vessel’s tasks. The ships are equipped with an electric drive system that is powered by four Wärtsilä UD 23V12 diesel engines coupled to four Jeumont ANR 53-50-4 alternators, creating 715 kilowatts each. Two Jeumont C1 560 L electric motors provide power to the two LIPS FS-100 Z-drive azimuth thrusters which are fitted with fixed-pitch reversing propellers. In total the system creates 3,064 shaft horsepower (2,285 kW) and a maximum speed of 15 knots. When minesweeping, the vessels have a maximum speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) and have a range of 5,000 nautical miles at 8 knots and have an endurance of 18 days.

The Kingston class were initially armed with a single Bofors 40-millimetre (1.6 in)/60 calibre Mk 1N/1 anti-aircraft gun mounted in a Mk 5C Boffin mount and two single 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Browning M2 machine guns. The Bofors guns were refurbished World War II models that had been previously used by the Canadian Army for air defence in Europe and were removed in 2014. The machine guns are mounted on either side at the front of the bridge deck. All 12 ships have degaussing coil arrays fitted, but only the first three ships have the control system, with it situated between the two funnels.

Moving forward with Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) replacements

The most recent defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE) produced in 2017, did not mention the MCDVs or replacement time frames. The civilian designed class is creeping up to 30 years old now and must be replaced with more capable navalized OPVs soonest. There are several OPVs either operational or on the drawing board world-wide, that could be excellent options for the RCN. These include:

  1. VARD 7 115 Next Generation Off-Shore Patrol Vessel (NGOPV)
  2. VARD 7 125 Next Generation Off-Shore Patrol Vessel (NGOPV)
  3. Fincantieri-Italy-Vigilance class OPV (also from VARD)
  4. SERCO Canada’s ATLAS 120 Frigate OPV
  5. SERCO Canada’s ATLAS 105 Corvette OPV
  6. BAE 95-Meter Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV)
  7. CMN France Vigilante CL 75 MK II or 1400-CL 79 OPVs

These are just a few options that Canada could decide on for replacements of the Kingston-class MCDVs. Or Canada could acquire other options or design its own OPV replacement – this, however would certainly be the least desirable option in terms of cost.


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