JUNE 24, 2015 — The Government of Canada is starting preliminary discussions with Quebec shipbuilder Chantier Davie on providing the Royal Canadian Navy with what Defense Minister Jason Kenney yesterday called "an interim supply ship capability" — in other words a commercial ship retrofitted to serve as a fleet oiler.
Davie would provide the vessel under a provision of service contract until Canada's first newbuild Joint Support Ship (JSS) becomes operational in 2021.
While the JSS will have a "robust war fighting capability" and an all military crew, the interim supply ship would provide a more modest capability and would not conduct full-spectrum military operations in high-threat environments. The objective is simply to provide an at-sea replenishment service to RCN. Right now, it does not have such a capability.
The two vessels in the RCN's legacy refueling fleet just could not struggle on to reach what now appear to have been hopelessly over extended retirement targets.
The last of them, HMCS Protecteur was retired after sustaining serious damage in a fire in February 2014.
An extensive assessment concluded that the ship was damaged beyond economical repair, says the Canadian Government.
"Considering the relatively short service life remaining for HMCS Protecteur, which was scheduled to be retired in 2017, the cost to re-instate the ship to full operational capability did not represent the best use of public funds.
The other ship, HMCS Preserver was scheduled for retirement in 2016, "but engineering surveys done in 2014 identified levels of corrosion that had degraded the structural integrity of the ship below acceptable limits. As a result, the cost to reinstate the ship to full operational capability also did not represent a responsible use of public funds."
Meantime, the decision to sole source the retrofit opportunity to Davie is proving controversial. There have been suggestions that it is basically vote buying in a region where Canada's ruling Conservative Party hopes to win seats.