VICTORIA, British Columbia — Canada's Navy expects to use a commercial ship leased from a private company until at least 2021 for refueling its warships at sea. It's believed to be the first time the service has had to rely on a private company to provide a capability usually handled by its own resupply ships.
"The Navy really didn't have much choice but to go this route," said Shadwick, who teaches strategic studies at York University in Toronto. "The delays in our shipbuilding put them into this situation."
The Canadian government is in the process of acquiring for the Royal Canadian Navy two Joint Support Ships (JSS) at a cost of CAN $2.6 billion (US $2 billion). Those ships were supposed to be in the water in 2012 but construction has yet to start. Delays were caused by a lack of funding and the need to restart the procurement process.
Construction of the new Joint Support Ships is now expected to begin at the Seaspan shipyards in Vancouver, British Columbia, late next year.
Department of National Defence spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said a contract for services would be put in place for the commercial vessel.
"The key role of the interim provision of service is to provide an at-sea supply and replenishment service to the RCN's Halifax-class frigates for non-combat domestic and international operations," she explained. "It [the ship] could also add significant additional capabilities, such as aviation support, enhanced command and control, provide medical and other humanitarian assistance, as well as carry spare parts, food and cargo."
The first ship is expected to be in the water in 2020. The Asterix would be used until the arrival of the second JSS in 2021, she added.
Public Works spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold said discussions are still ongoing with Chantier Davie Canada on contract terms and price for what the Navy is calling the interim auxiliary oil replenishment services.
"No decision on cost or timing of a contract award has been made at this time," said Bujold, whose department oversees Canadian government procurement.
The Chilean Navy ship Almirante Montt arrived at the naval base here on July 3 and provided support for 40 days at sea before returning home.
A Spanish Navy supply ship is expected to arrive sometime in the fall to support Canada's east coast fleet. Canada's Department of National Defence has not yet released details of that arrangement.
In November 2014, Vice Adm. Mark Norman, head of the Royal Canadian Navy, estimated that Canada's reliance on allies for resupply at sea would only be short term.
"No matter what we do, we don't see a long-term, sustainable solution coming from our allies," he said.
Norman noted the retirement of Canada's two existing supply ships created "a significant gap that we need to look to mitigate as quickly and as cost-effectively as we can."
David Pugliese is the Canada correspondent for Defense News.