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CCGS John G. Diefenbaker Polar Class Icebreaker

The federal Liberal government added a second heavy icebreaker to its long-term plans for the Canadian Coast Guard, in a move to head off a messy battle with Canada's shipbuilding industry. Liberal cabinet ministers surprised many on 06 May 2021 when they announced the government it was tapping Vancouver's Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie to each build a new heavy icebreaker for the Coast Guard over the coming decade. These first of their class Polar Icebreakers will be larger and more powerful than the Coast Guard’s current heavy icebreakers, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and CCGS Terry Fox. The St-Laurent is currently scheduled to be retired in 2030 while the Coast Guard's other heavy icebreaker, the CCGS Terry Fox, is set to follow suit in 2032.

The increased power and endurance of these ships will allow them to operate in more challenging ice conditions at higher latitudes in Canada’s Arctic where the Coast Guard cannot regularly operate. The new ships will have a longer operational range meaning they can remain in the Arctic for a longer period of time. In addition, these new vessels will have enhanced capabilities for science, including laboratories, moon pools, and the ability to sample ocean and ice throughout the full year. The ships will also come equipped with multi-purpose spaces to allow the Coast Guard to undertake a variety of mission types. In addition to the technological advantages provided by these new ships, having two in operation will allow the Coast Guard to maintain a year round presence in the Arctic.

STX Canada Marine announced in February 2012 that they have been awarded the contract to design the new polar icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced today the award on behalf of the Government of Canada. The work will be carried out at STX Canada Marine’s Vancouver office and be completed by the end of 2013. The polar icebreaker will be named after former Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker (CCGS John G. Diefenbaker). It is expected to take eight to 10 years to design and build, with a total investment of $720 million.

It will possess greater icebreaking capabilities than any other vessel currently in the Canadian fleet. It will be able to operate autonomously for 270 days in the Arctic, over a larger area, and in more difficult conditions than any of Canada’s current icebreakers. The new vessel will replace the CCGS Louis St. Laurent as the CCG Flagship. The polar icebreaker will be designed to accommodate 100 personnel and have the ability to break through 2.5m of ice. The polar icebreaker will be 120-140 meters in length. This ship was expected to be smaller than the Polar 8 Project at 140 meters in length. It will carry a complement of 100 personnel and accommodation for 25 additional people. The polar icebreaker will also be able to accommodate two helicopters when required and has large cargo carrying capacity.

When announcing the icebreaker in August of 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper invoked the memory of the Rt. Hon. John Diefenbaker, who stood at the same spot to dedicate the newly built town of Inuvik in 1961. Diefenbaker made history when he became the first Canadian Prime Minister to travel north of the Arctic Circle. “When it launches for the first time into the frigid Canadian waters, the Diefenbaker, as it is almost certain to be nicknamed, will be a crowning achievement for our country,” said Prime Minister Harper. CCGS John G. Diefenbaker is one of the centerpieces of the Government of Canada’s high profile Northern Strategy, which focuses on strengthening Canada’s Arctic sovereignty, economic and social development, governance, and environmental protection. The new vessel will be the pride of Canada’s Coast Guard fleet. The new Icebreaker will be delivered to coincide with the decommissioning of the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent in 2017.

STX Canada Marine is a naval architecture and engineering services company with offices in Vancouver and Ottawa. For almost 30 years they have been providing ship design and engineering services nationally and internationally. In recent years, they have had the privilege of working with the Department of National Defense on the design of the Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessel (AOPS) and the Canadian Coast Guard on the design of the Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (OOSV). STX Marine Canada looks forward to working collaboratively with the CCG in designing the polar icebreaker. STX Canada Marine will be supported in the Polar Icebreaker Design project by a team of highly experienced partners including Aker Arctic Technology (AARC), SNC-Lavalin, INDAL Technologies and Noise Control Engineering. Aker Arctic Technology, part of STX Europe will provide their world leading icebreaker design and construction expertise to the project. AARC and STX shipyards have been involved in the design and construction of over 60% of the world’s icebreakers.

The polar icebreaker is one of the vessels included in the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) Non-Combat contract awarded to Seaspan Vancouver Shipyards Ltd in October 2011. Therefore, the vessel will be designed and built in Vancouver. The project will provide a significant economic boost to Canadian marine industry and west coast shipyard workers and marine related companies in particular.

The February 2008 federal budget announced a $720 million project to build a replacement for the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent in FY 2017. It won't hit the ice and water until 2017, but by August 2008 Canada's new $720-million icebreaker had a name. Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the icebreaker that will become Canada's flagship in the Arctic will be named after the late Progressive Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker. After its completion almost a decade hence, the Diefenbaker will replace the Louis St. Laurent, which was named after Diefenbaker's Liberal predecessor.

Many political and media sources have called this new vessel a "Polar Class Icebreaker", though all vessels classed by a classification society as being capable of operating in sea ice have a polar class which can range from PC 1 through PC 7. Since the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent is classed PC 1, it is quite likely that the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker will be similarly classed. The original $700 million per vessel pricetag of an icebreaker from the Polar 8 Project in 1985, when adjusted for inflation to 2008, would be approximately $1.3 billion, therefore it is quite likely that the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker will be a much smaller vessel than the Polar 8 Project envisioned, albeit larger than the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.

The Canadian Coast Guard has a ship naming policy, which presents a consistent and logical approach to naming CCG vessels. The objective of the policy is to select names that promote Canadian sovereignty, culture, geography and history. It is also intended to raise the profile of vessels and the work they do by honouring and celebrating people and places of regional and national significance. Vessel names are brief and easily understood by radiotelephone and other means of communication.

Among his many other accomplishments in a storied and colourful political career, Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker was a life-long champion of investing in and protecting the Canadian North. The Diefenbaker Government undertook a massive northern infrastructure program called "roads to resources". Over 1400 miles of roads were built across the territories. The program also included new airports and ice roads for winter transport. Perhaps the most memorable achievement of the Diefenbaker government was building the community of Inuvik itself. The Diefenbaker Government also invested in the Dempster Highway which provided a reliable land-link between Inuvik and southern Canada. The Rt.Hon.John Diefenbaker also made history when he became the first Canadian Prime Minister to travel north of the Arctic Circle. Having himself lived in the Northwest Territories as a youth, he had tremendous respect for the people of the North and, in particular, the Inuit and other Aboriginal communities.

The polar icebreaker will be approximately 140 meters in length and capable of sustained operations in the Arctic Archipelago over three seasons per year in very difficult ice conditions. (e.g., the ability to continuously break ice up to 2.5 meters thick). It will carry a crew of approximately 60 with accommodations for an additional 50 people. The polar icebreaker will also be able to accommodate a helicopter when required and has large cargo carrying capacity. For comparison, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent is able to operate two seasons, can continuously break ice up to 1.3 meters thick and has a crew of 44.

The Liberal government expected engineering work on a new heavy duty icebreaker will start in 2017, with delivery of the $1.3 billion polar class icebreaker by 2022. Pre-construction engineering will begin at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards in 2017, with a construction contract to follow in 2019.

Ice class Polar Class 2 Icebreaker(+)
Classification And Notation Lloyd’s Register, X 100A1 ICE CLASS PC2, ICEBREAKER+, LMC, NAV1, IBS, DP(AM), UMS, CCS, ICC, PSMR, IFP, CAC3, WINTERIZATION: H(-35), A(-40)
Icebreaking capability 2.5 m
Length 150-150.1 m
Breadth 28.0 m
Draft (design) 10.5 m
Displacement 23,500 Tons
Propulsion 2 × 11 MW shaftlines + 12 MW azimuthing propulsor
Power Plant Type Diesel Electric
Power Plant Power 39.6 MW
Propulsion Power 34 MW
Speed 20 Knots
Complement 60 Crew, 40 Program Personnel

Actual design

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Page last modified: 06-05-2021 17:06:22 ZULU