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April 15, 2004

$1.56 billion Canadian Navy support ship plan

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin announced yesterday that "the Government has approved the project to acquire three new joint support ships for the Navy: A C$2.1 billion [US$1.56 billion] project that will provide Canada with a significantly enhanced maritime capability, both at home and abroad."

The ships were mentioned in the government's budget last month, where they were described as "replacements for the navy's replenishment ships that will be capable of supporting naval task forces at sea as well as providing other capabilities such as sea-lift of Canadian Forces en route to missions."

However, details on exactly what the ships will be and where they will be built remain hazy. For some time now Canada has been toying with an "Afloat Logistics and Sealift Capability (ALSC) project for the anticipated acquisition and long term in-service support of a fleet of vessels to replace the Navy's aging Protecteur-class vessels. In addition to the current fleet replenishment capability, the replacement vessels would also provide strategic sealift and support to forces ashore.

Where the ships will be built remains very much in question.

Facilities that have been mentioned in Canadian press reports include Davie Industries of Quebec, Washington Marine Group of British Columbia and the J.D. Irving Group. Irving has closed its Saint John shipyard--the largest in Canada--making its Halifax yard its next best option.

The Halifax Herald says Canada's Defence Minister, David Pratt, will announce more details of the purchase tomorrow.

"It will be an open and transparent competition and Canadian companies will be very welcome to compete," the newspaper quotes Defence Department spokesman Darren Gibb as saying.

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