By: Megan Brush and Laurel Sallie
"Canada is the best-case scenario for DCNS,” said Patrick Boissier, the CEO and chairman of the French naval company, at a dinner party held at the Château Laurier in Ottawa on November 20. Likewise, he stressed in a speech that DCNS is the best option for Canada.
Right now, some of Canada’s best naval vessels are unable to enter international ports because the ships are unable to meet international environmental standards. Their age and deteriorating state are to blame. The vessels need serious repairs and upgrades; and in many cases, the ships are sporting parts that are now deemed obsolete.
“Your sovereignty depends on your ability to protect your borders,” said Boissier, stating the Arctic as a Canadian example. “The Canadian Armed Forces must have the equipment they need to protect their borders.” DCNS, according to Boissier, is the best partner for Canada to achieve success in this area.
DCNS, a French company and a leader in shipbuilding and naval combat systems integration in Europe, created an evening to discuss the benefits of a partnership. The room, decorated with blue accents, was filled with guests mingling and sipping wine. The first course was a sweet salad, a warm roast followed, and the dinner ended with a traditional French dessert, crème brûlée. The invited guests — members of the Royal Canadian Navy, the media, and industry — listened while Boissier explained his plans for the future.
DCNS believes its multipurpose frigate, FREMM, would be the optimal choice for Canada’s navy. FREMM is a front-line warship that can be used for a multitude of missions. The ship has automatic operation systems and man–machine interfaces that keep the number of crew needed to operate it at just over one hundred. It has the capability to detect radar and communications from other vessels, as well as block them.
The FREMM has been designed to be fully loaded with torpedoes, naval cruise missiles, surface to air missiles (up to 7 metres long) and guns up to 127 mm. The vessel is also large enough to hold helicopters and drones if needed. Boissier stressed that the FREMM is an all-in-one package design, which can be altered entirely to fit the unique needs of each country.
In June 2010, Canada announced its proposal for change. The plan, entitled the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), was set to roll out over the next 30 years. The NSPS contained a three-part strategy, which included the construction of large ships, construction of smaller vessels, and the repair and maintenance of existing fleets. Under NSPS, $25 billion has been allotted to warships for the Royal Canadian Navy. From this, six to eight vessels will go to the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship Project, and 15 will be given to the single class Canadian Surface Combatant Project.
The NSPS is said to create 15,000 jobs throughout its lifetime and bring nearly $2 billion into the Canadian economy each year, during its 30-year time frame. However, recent reports have questioned whether the amount of money set aside for the procurement is enough.
The Canadian Surface Combatant Project is aimed at replacing the destroyers and frigates that currently protect Canadian waters. Irving Shipbuilding was selected to build these ships at its facilities on the East Coast, but now, Canada needs a design.
DCNS believes it has the best design for the frigates that Canada can find. “We want to work in partnership with Canada. We want to help you with your own designs,” said Boissier. “We don’t want to just implement things that worked elsewhere.”
Boissier stressed that if Canada chooses DCNS, the ships will be “built, customized, and maintained in Canada.” The model for the French company’s uniquely constructed frigate, FREMM, can be adapted to any country’s specific needs, explained Boissier.
Boissier also announced, at the dinner, a new project with Dalhousie University to open a Naval Systems Integration Centre in Canada. It will include “leading Canadian companies in naval systems engineering and will be ready to support the shipyards selected under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy,” said Boissier. It will be “a worldwide centre of excellence in combat system integration, long-term in-service support, and training,” he explained.
This centre will give Canadian naval industries a competitive advantage around the world, he said, and more information will be released at a later date.
DCNS, based in France, has more than 400 years of experience in all aspects of ship and submarine building and maintenance. DCNS directly employs 13,200 people and indirectly employs 40,000 through its partners and suppliers around the world. For Canada, DCNS is pushing to contribute to the Canadian Surface Combatant Project.
Boissier claimed that if Canada takes on the FREMM design, 15 frigates would be made and 10,000 Canadian jobs would be created.
DCNS boasts international relationships with countries like Brazil. In 2009, said Boissier, DCNS worked with the Brazilian Navy to transfer designs of submarines and shipyards. The relationship worked, according to Boissier, because of this transfer of technologies. It was a partnership; DCNS incorporated what was uniquely Brazilian to create success.
According to Boissier, DCNS is ready to begin developing this partnership with Canada. “We are ready to move full speed ahead.”