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Friday, June 24, 2016

iAOR Role can be Expanded and Outfitted for Disaster-Relief

By: David Pugliese, National Post

OTTAWA — The company providing an interim supply ship for Canada’s navy is looking at expanding the vessel’s disaster-relief capabilities, a role identified by the Liberal government as a key future military mission.

The MV Asterix, a commercial vessel that is being converted into a supply ship for the Canadian Navy, is seen June 23, 2016, at Quebec's Chantier Davie shipyards. The ship's hull has been hollowed out to accommodate new fuel tanks and it will be receiving a new superstructure.
The MV Asterix, a commercial vessel that is being converted into a supply ship for the Canadian Navy, is seen June 23, 2016, at Quebec's Chantier Davie shipyards. The ship's hull has been hollowed out to accommodate new fuel tanks and it will be receiving a new superstructure.
Chantier Davie shipyards of Levis, Que., and its sister company Federal Fleet Services, will be gathering Canadian firms in Ottawa on June 28 so they can outline disaster-relief equipment available for the ship, to be delivered to the navy late next year.

The ship is being created by converting a commercial vessel, the MV Asterix. The project has attracted interest from the Australian, New Zealand and South African navies.

Canadian suppliers of equipment for disaster and humanitarian missions will outline what they can supply for the vessel and that information will be passed on to the Royal Canadian Navy, said John Schmidt, a vice-president with Federal Fleet Services in Ottawa.


The ship’s main role is to refuel and resupply warships at sea. But the navy has also said it wants the vessel to have capabilities for humanitarian missions, although it has not outlined many specifics.

The Liberal government has said it wants the Canadian military to play more of a role in disaster and humanitarian missions.

“Canada has a lot of companies who are leaders in technology who can meet these demands, but they have never had the opportunity to bid to the Canadian government,” Schmidt said.
Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian PressThe MV Asterix is seen at Davie Shipbuilding in Levis, Que., on Oct. 13, 2015.
He noted the ship has a lot of flexibility since it can carry several dozen sea containers of emergency equipment. It can also provide medical assistance and has room for more than 200 passengers for a disaster-relief operation.

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, who will take over later in the summer as vice-chief of the defence staff, told the Ottawa Citizen in a recent interview that the navy is looking at ways to outfit its ships for future humanitarian missions.

Noting other countries’ interest in the conversion project, Schmidt said navies around the world need to replace aging supply vessels. “Everyone is watching their budgets,” he explained. “If there is a way to provide a capability at a reduced cost, then navies are interested in hearing about it.”

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Schmidt said delivery of the ship to the Canadian navy is on schedule for September 2017. The company is motivated to keep its schedule because it doesn’t receive any payment until the vessel is delivered, he added.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian PressThe MV Asterix is seen at Davie Shipbuilding in Levis, Que., on Oct. 13, 2015.

The Canadian government decided to proceed with the conversion of the commercial container ship after the navy’s existing two supply vessels were pulled from active service because of age and structural issues.

Under a lease agreement, Federal Fleet Services would provide a civilian crew to operate the ship. Royal Canadian Navy personnel would be on board to handle communications and the actual transfer of supplies and fuel to warships.

The conversion project and lease of the vessel is estimated to cost about $700 million.

The lease would run for five years, with an option after that to extend on a yearly basis for a total of another five years.

Under the federal government’s national shipbuilding strategy, Seaspan in Vancouver is to build two supply ships for the Canadian navy. But those are not expected to be ready until around 2020.