Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic January 28, 2016 - 7:29 am

Coast Guard: new $1.3 billion Arctic icebreaker to be ready by 2022

Work on CCGS John G. Diefenbaker to start in 2017

A conceptual rendering of the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker, which the government hopes to launch in 2022. (COAST GUARD PHOTO)
A conceptual rendering of the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker, which the government hopes to launch in 2022. (COAST GUARD PHOTO)


The Liberal government expects engineering work on a new heavy duty icebreaker will start in 2017, with delivery of the $1.3 billion polar class icebreaker by 2022, a Coast Guard spokesperson said Jan. 26.

The CCGS John G. Diefenbaker, named after the Progressive Conservative prime minister who served from 1957 to 1963, will be built by Seaspan Marine Corp. of British Columbia and will replace the Louis St. Laurent, which Canada launched in 1968.

In 2013, the Conservative government announced cost increases for building the icebreaker that brought its price tag up to $1.3 billion from the $720 million they originally budgeted.

The Coast Guard spokesperson confirmed by e-mail that it still expects the ship to be delivered for that price but continues “to monitor the impacts of the timing of the construction and factors such as inflation and currency fluctuations on the cost.”

During last fall’s election, the Liberals promised that they would scrap the F-35 jet fighter program and use the money to build icebreakers instead.

But the Coast Guard can only confirm that one new icebreaker is planned right now.

Pre-construction engineering will begin at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards in 2017, with a construction contract to follow in 2019.

As part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, the Conservative government selected the shipbuilder in 2011, awarded a design contract in 2012, but did not award the company a construction contract.

The Coast Guard originally planned a 2013 construction start date and 2017 completion date for the Diefenbaker, but the Conservatives prioritized the building of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Arctic offshore patrol ships.

Those vessels that are only capable of breaking through one metre of ice — nicknamed slush breakers.

In addition to the CCGS Louis St. Laurent, the Terry Fox, Admundsen, Des Groseilliers, Henry Larsen and Pierre Radisson, all which started service in the 1980s, make up the Coast Guard’s ice-breaking fleet.

The Louis St. Laurent was originally scheduled to be decommissioned in 2000, but a refit completed that year extended its service life.

Even after the completion of the new ship, the Coast Guard won’t be able to operate icebreakers in the far north during winter.

But the Coast Guard pointed out that it will be capable of “unrestricted operations for a nine month period, and will have the capacity to over-winter in the Arctic as required.”

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