Seaspan Shipyards Lays Keel for Royal Canadian Navy’s First Joint Support Ship, Future HMCS Protecteur

Seaspan Shipyards has hosted the ceremonial keel laying ceremony for the Royal Canadian Navy’s first Joint Support Ship (JSS), the future HMCS Protecteur on Jan. 16.

The ceremony was held at the Seaspan Vancouver Shipyards in North Vancouver, BC, and was be attended by Johnathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Member of Parliament for North Vancouver, and Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy.

The keel laying event is a significant milestone in a ship’s construction during which a newly minted coin is placed near the keel, which traditionally runs along the length of the ship, where it will remain for the duration of the ship’s life. The coin is said to bring good luck for the builders and all those who sail in the vessel.

During the ceremony, the coin was laid by 45-year Seaspan employee Jeff Smith. The jointly developed design for the keel coin features the crest of the future HMCS Protecteur on one side and the crests/logos of the JSS project team on the back.

The keel coin features the crest of the future HMCS Protecteur on one side and the crests/logos of the JSS project team on the back.
The keel coin features the crest of the future HMCS Protecteur on one side and the crests/logos of the JSS project team on the back.

“Today’s keel-laying ceremony represents another milestone in our commitment to provide modern, safe and effective vessels to members of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Coast Guard. The hard work of the dedicated individuals at Seaspan ensures that the National Shipbuilding Strategy delivers on its mandate to rejuvenate Canada’s shipbuilding industry. We are proud to celebrate the symbolic birth of Canada’s first Joint Support Ship”, said Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC).

“The construction of this new ship represents an important investment in the capabilities of our Navy, while also providing significant economic opportunities for the local economy, especially for Canadians living here in North Vancouver. Today marks an important milestone in our shipbuilding journey, and I look forward to seeing its ongoing progress in the future”, said Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Member of Parliament for North Vancouver.

“We are incredibly proud to reach this important milestone on the first of two Joint Support Ships that will be built by Seaspan. At Seaspan, we know that building ships requires you to build more than ships. You need to build a workforce, an industry, a supply chain, and strong partnerships. The JSS will be the largest naval ship ever built in Canada – a tremendous accomplishment for all the skilled and committed men and women involved in her design and construction”, said Mark Lamarre, Chief Executive Officer, Seaspan Shipyards.

Progress on HMCS Protecteur

Construction of large segments of the ship, known as early blocks, commenced in June 2018 to improve the schedule and mitigate a production gap within the shipyard. Currently, 16 blocks are complete and another 37 blocks are under construction.

The first “grand block” was assembled in November 2019. A “grand block” is formed when four large ship blocks comprising more than 160 tons of steel are joined together. Three “grand blocks” are currently assembled with the fourth readying for a full erection.

The future HMCS Protecteur, which is the largest naval ship class by length ever built in Canada, is scheduled for delivery in 2023.

Protecteur class Joint Support Ship (JSS)

The Joint Support Ship (JSS) vessels, also called Protecteur class after the lead ship, are a class of two naval auxiliaries being constructed by Seaspan Shipyards for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS).

The vessels will replace the underway replenishment (UNREP) capability of the now-retired Protecteur-class Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment (AOR) vessels, as well as provide strategic sealift and some airlift for the Canadian Army and the Navy, and command facilities for a Canadian Forces “joint force” or “naval task group”. They will be capable of conducting a wide range of military operations in high-threat environments.

The Protecteur class vessels are based on the German Navy Type 702 Berlin-class replenishment ship design offered by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems Canada (TKMS Canada). The final design was done by Seaspan and the Protecteur class is the fourth vessel class to be designed and built by Seaspan under the NSS.

The first vessel was named Protecteur after HMCS Protecteur (AOR 509) and the second will be named Preserver after HMCS Preserver (AOR 510), taking the names of the ships that they are to replace.

The vessels have a length of 173.7 meters, a breath of 24 meters, and a design displacement of nearly 20,000 tonnes. They are among the largest ships built on Canada’s West Coast and are the largest naval ship by length ever built in Canada once complete.

They ships will have a cruising speed of 15 knots, a top speed of 20 knots and a range of ~10,800 (20,000 km) nautical miles. They will have ice-edge capability to access Nanisivik Naval Facility in the summer navigation season.

The vessels will have a multi-purpose covered deck with the ability to carry up to 10,000 tonnes of ship fuel, 1,300 tonnes of aviation fuel, 1,100 tonnes of ammunition as well as 1,000–1,500 lane meters of deck space for carrying vehicles and containerized cargo. The vessels will also have hospital facilities as well as a large helicopter deck with two landing spots for the CH-148 Cyclone helicopters, hangar space for four helicopters, and a roll-on/roll-off deck for vehicles onto a dock.

The JSS will have a crew of up to 199 personnel plus its air detachment and mission personnel for a total of 239 onboard accommodations.

The first of class, HMCS Protecteur, is scheduled for a 2023 delivery with HMCS Preserver expected to follow in 2025.

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