By Micaal Ahmed
Photos by Heath Moffat
In 2011, Seaspan Shipyards won the non-combat package of work for Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS), and since then, the North Vancouver-based shipyard has been at the forefront of this ambitious program. “For a maritime nation like Canada, the NSS is a nation-building program that enjoys all-party support,” says Tim Page, Seaspan Shipyards’ Vice-President for Government Relations.
The NSS is a 30-year-long program that will see the construction of the next generation of ships for Canadian Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Navy. This work will be accomplished by two Canadian shipyards, allowing Canada to benefit economically while building the skills and capabilities required for a sovereign shipbuilding industry.
After “decades of relative inactivity, the NSS, through a planned, long-term production schedule, will eliminate the boom and bust cycles that defined past federal shipbuilding programs,” says Page. “Although in its early stages, [the NSS] is already providing thousands of jobs and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity across the country. It is transforming our shipbuilding and marine industry sectors to meet Canada’s long-term ambitions.”
Since its selection as Canada’s non-combat shipbuilder, according to Page, Seaspan is now:
Operating from a purpose-built shipyard in North Vancouver that is the most modern of its kind in North America, having invested $170 million of its own money to do so, not a penny of which came from (either federal or provincial) government coffers;
Creating a generation of qualified, well-paid Canadians by hiring and training hundreds of tradespeople from diverse backgrounds in the practice of modern, modular shipbuilding;
Developing a marine sector ecosystem across the country through predictable supply chain opportunities that is enabling companies to expand their operations; investing in technology, people and equipment; and exploring international business opportunities;
Establishing a Centre of Excellence on Canada’s West Coast for shipbuilding and ship repair that is putting Canada back on the global marine map as a reliable, capable and competitive option; and
Building the first three Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels (OFSVs) for the Canadian Coast Guard under the NSS, the first of which is scheduled for launch in December of this year.
“Suffice to say, Seaspan is fully committed to, and focused across a wide spectrum of activities to bring life and real work to the National Shipbuilding Strategy,” says Page. “We have made significant progress and had a real, demonstrable impact on the Canadian economy in the early years of the NSS program’s 30-year lifespan.”
One of the most vital vessels to come out of Seaspan’s shipyards as part of the NSS will be the Joint Support Ship (JSS); it will be the third class of vessels to be built at Vancouver Shipyards, following the OFSV and the Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (OOSV) programs.
“Projected to have a 30-year service life, the JSS will be the heart of the RCN fleet. Once built, JSS will serve as a critical component of Canadian and allied task groups, deployable to any theatre and under any threat environment with self-defence, survivability, replenishment and ice capabilities. JSS will be equipped with NATO standard medical, surgical and dental facilities and a NATO-compliant encrypted communications suite,” states Page.
“For JSS, we are currently under contract, and working in close collaboration with the Royal Canadian Navy, to perform the design and production engineering work required to update the original design to Canadian requirements and for production in our shipyard. It is through this exercise that we will generate a realistic idea of the number of labour hours and material costs required to build the vessels,” says Page. “We are also currently under contract to go to market to purchase equipment for the JSS that requires a longer lead time to arrive in the shipyard. We are well underway on this important program for the Canadian Navy.”
Through its work on the JSS Program Seaspan is delivering a vital capability to the Canadian Navy and creating jobs and economic opportunities across the country.