Strengthening Canada's Arctic Sovereignty – Constructing Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships

Ottawa, Ontario
9 July 2007

Canada’s New Government recognizes that an increased military presence in the Arctic is critical to our national interest and sense of identity.

Currently, the Canadian Navy can patrol the coastal waters of Canada’s East and West Coasts, but it does not have the capability to effectively patrol all three oceans. The Navy can only operate in northern waters for a short period of time, and only when there is no ice.

While the current Kingston-Class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDV) have the versatility to operate in coastal areas, these minor war vessels have limited ability to operate in the open ocean, cannot support a helicopter, and are restricted in their  capacity to support boarding operations. The Navy must use its large combatant vessels – destroyers and frigates, which are expensive to operate, to patrol the open ocean.

To fill this capability gap, the Navy will acquire up to eight Polar Class 5 Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (A/OPSs). These multi-purpose, ice-capable offshore patrol ships will provide the flexibility for the Navy to operate in both the Arctic and offshore environments, allowing them to be used year-round in a variety of roles, including domestic surveillance, search and rescue and support to other government departments.  The A/OPSs offer the best blend of capabilities in one platform. 

A ship with these capabilities does not currently exist and will have to be designed to meet a series of high-level requirements:

Seakeeping: The A/OPSs must be able to operate independently and effectively in Canada’s EEZs, including such diverse environments as the Canadian Arctic, the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and the Northwest Coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands. The ship must also be capable of navigating the St. Lawrence River year-round and berthing at Quebec City.

Ice Capability: The hull of the A/OPS must be ice strengthened to operate in medium first-year ice (ice up to one metre thick), which may include old ice inclusions - old ice that is denser and may strike the hull of the ship. This ice capability is exclusively for the ships’ own mobility, not to provide icebreaking services to other ships.

Endurance/Range: The ship must have the ability to sustain operations for up to four months and must have a range of at least 6,000 nautical miles.

Command and Control: The ship’s electronic equipment must have the ability to ensure safety of navigation and flight, as well as sufficient command, control and communications capability to provide and receive real-time information to and from the CF Common Operating Picture.

Speed: The ship must be able to maintain an economical speed of 14 knots and attain a maximum speed of at least 20 knots.

Armament: The ship must have gun armament to assert Canadian sovereignty.

Boat Operations: The ship’s crew must be able to conduct boat operations in up to sea state four, support operations ashore via landing craft and support naval boarding parties.

Class Life: The six to eight ships should remain operational for 25 years.

The ship may also be designed to embark and operate an on-board helicopter, as well as house one flying crew and one maintenance crew.

Procurement Strategy

The estimated cost of acquiring these ships is $3.1 billion. Approximately $4.3 billion will be provided for operations and maintenance over the 25-year lifespan of the ship.

The two-phased procurement process for these vessels will be fair and transparent. It will also be conducted to ensure that the needs of the CF are met in a timely manner, while ensuring value for Canadians’ tax dollars and maximizing opportunities for Canadian industry. The procurement strategy will conform to the Canadian Shipbuilding Policy Framework, which requires the federal government to procure, repair and refit vessels in Canada.

A project definition phase of 24 months will be needed to develop the functional design, refine the high-level statement of operational requirements (SORs), complete and issue the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the implementation phase of the project and evaluate responses. A competitive process will be used to select a Definition, Engineering, Logistics and Management Support (DELMS) contractor, who will develop the design used to refine the requirements and provide input into the RFP. During this time, consulting engineering contractors will also deliver a functional design for the infrastructure needed to support the A/OPS.

Throughout the project definition phase, industry will be kept engaged and informed of progress and design work. Interest from industry will be sought through a Letter of Interest to allow potential bidders to self-identify, and qualified teams will be invited to comment on the draft project implementation (PI) RFP. The definition phase of the procurement process would end with the release and evaluation of this RFP.

The implementation phase of the process would involve the successful contractor completing a detailed design of the ships, followed by construction and the provision of integrated logistics support, and initial in-service support.

During this phase of the process, realty assets required for the docking and refuelling facility in Nunavut will also be acquired, and contracts will also be awarded for the construction and completion of the support infrastructure needed.

This acquisition will create long-term industrial development for Canadians. The Government's policy requires that prime contractors on defence procurements undertake business activities in Canada, usually in an amount equal to the value of the contract they have won. This helps Canadian companies maintain globally competitive operations in the country and effectively support future national security requirements.

The acquisition of these ships will deliver maximum high-quality industrial benefits to Canadians and the Canadian shipbuilding industry is well positioned to play a significant role as this project proceeds.