By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch
These are interesting days indeed in the defence industry. On Tuesday I reported in the National Post/Ottawa Citizen about Irving Shipbuilding’s new proposal to construct a ship specifically designed to aid in a humanitarian crisis.
The Nova Scotia-based shipyard would take a commercial roll-on/roll off vessel and convert it to carry a hospital, medical supplies and emergency equipment to respond to a variety of missions ranging from earthquake relief to providing aid to refugees.
Irving submitted the proposal Friday to the officials coordinating the Liberal government’s defence review.
The Liberal government has yet to respond to the proposal.
The firm is hoping to take advantage of the government’s interest in having the Canadian military play more of a role in humanitarian operations.
Irving president Kevin McCoy told the Ottawa Citizen it would take about one year to convert a commercial vessel into what the company is calling a maritime support ship.
“This is not an unsolicited proposal,” he said. “It’s in response to several of the key questions raised by the government’s Defence Review.”
The vessel would be offered to Canada for a five-year lease. The cost, under $300 million, would include the leasing of the ship, conversion of the vessel for its humanitarian role, a 30-member civilian crew to operate the vessel and maintenance for the lease period.
McCoy said the proposal would not undercut the government’s current shipbuilding strategy, which calls for the building of two Joint Support Ships. Construction of the first of those ships is expected to proceed in 2018 at Seaspan shipyards in Vancouver. The first of those ships would be ready in 2020.
Davie shipyards in Quebec is also converting a commercial vessel for the navy. That ship will be used on an interim basis to handle at-sea refueling for the navy’s warships.
Davie has also promoted the vessel’s ability to be of use during a humanitarian crisis.
What was interesting was the reaction from Davie. It took a “more the merrier” approach.
Davie issued a news release Tuesday commending Irving Shipbuilding on “taking a positive and innovative approach to solving some of the major capability gaps facing the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard with regards to the current federal shipbuilding programs.”
“Realizing this, East coast shipyards in Canada’s key shipbuilding hubs in Nova Scotia and Quebec have pro-actively provided alternative, cost-efficient and innovative ways to convert existing commercial vessels to fill gaps in Canada’s non-combat fleet,” the firm noted.
Speaking at the CANSEC in Ottawa, Alex Vicefield, Davie’s chairman, said Irving Shipbuilding’s proposal “is confirming what has been universally recognized over the past months, including by the Government of Canada in the Canada Transportation Act review. That there are several classes of ship which Canada urgently needs and the current shipbuilding program is not capable of delivering. This is a great initiative from Irving Shipbuilding – these kind of unsolicited proposals where industry takes what it has learnt in how to provide fast-track, cost-efficient solutions to address critical operational gaps, is exactly what is needed right now.”
Vicefield said “these kind of interim and supplementary programs to ensure that we can close the capability gaps” are needed.