Three Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) warships have suffered a series of technical issues over the past two weeks causing significant concern on the capabilities of the Navy.
The involved ships were two Halifax-class frigates, HMCS Halifax (FFH 330) and HMCS Toronto (FFH 333), and a Kingston-class coastal defence vessel, HMCS Edmonton (MM 703). Specifically there have been two fires in gas turbine enclosures, power failures, and a loss of propulsion.
HMCS Halifax (FFH 330)
On 26 October, a fire broke out in the starboard gas turbine enclosure in the forward engine room of HMCS Halifax while the ship was deployed off the coast of Norway during NATO-led Exercise Trident Juncture.
Upon discovery of the fire, the crew immediately engaged the fire suppression system and the fire was quickly extinguished. No one was injured. The fire had no impact on operations and HMCS Halifax was able to continue participating in Ex Trident Juncture. The engine has been repaired and is now functioning normally.
Initial indications are that the fire onboard HMCS Halifax on 26 October was a result of a clogged drain in the engine enclosure, but again more will be confirmed when the investigation is complete.
HMCS Toronto (FFH 333)
On 29 October, HMCS Toronto experienced a total loss of power while conducting operations and Anti-Ship Missile Defence training in the Hebrides Sea off the coast of the UK. The ship was able to restore power and safely sail to Belfast.
Upon arrival in Belfast on 30 October a fire started in the starboard gas turbine enclosure in the forward engine room, the same location as the fire onboard HMCS Halifax. In the same fashion as the other fire, the crew immediately engaged the fire suppression system and the fire was quickly extinguished. No one was injured.
The crew repaired the power issue and HMCS Toronto returned to sea to continue the mission, successfully completing its missile shoot on 1 November.
At this point, initial indications are that the cause of the fire on HMCS Toronto was due to a tank overflow. The ship is returning to Halifax as planned and while the engine is functional, it is being kept in reserve while the investigation concludes.
HMCS Edmonton (MM 703)
On 5 November, HMCS Edmonton was conducting routine operations at sea on Operation CARIBBE in the eastern Pacific Ocean when it experienced a short loss of electrical power. The crew immediately responded to the situation and were able to bring power back in less than a minute. When power was restored it was discovered that the electronic control of the propulsion system had not come back on line. Eventually it was determined that two blown fuses were the cause of the propulsion failure.
HMCS Edmonton and its crew are safe and no one was injured. It is expected that the ship will return to its mission shortly.
The issue with HMCS Edmonton is not related to the other incidents as it is a different class of ship and therefore has different types of equipment onboard.
The Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) said in a statement that the fact there have been this many instances in such a short period of time is of significant concern to the Royal Canadian Navy.
The DND statement clarified that preliminary investigations into each of the incidents reveal that there is no conclusive evidence to link these events and that these events have taken place in two separate classes of ships (Halifax and Kingston classes) on both coasts. The statement added that the technical community continues to investigate to determine if there are any systemic issues that may be attributed to these technical issues.
The statement concluded that the fact the ships’ companies were able to repair the defects at sea is a testimony to their tremendous training and commitment to the successful completion of their mission.
“The safety and security of our sailors is paramount to everything we do and we are investigating each of these issues so that our sailors continue to have complete confidence in our ships and procedures. In each of these situations the respective ship’s companies immediately dealt with the issues, all of which were resolved safely and without injury. This speaks to the outstanding training our sailors receive and their ability to problem solve and deal with challenging situations”, said Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy.
“There are currently 11 ships at sea conducting operations around the world. Royal Canadian Navy ship systems are constructed with multiple layers of redundancy and routine ship maintenance and repairs are an expected part of business at sea. The investigations into these technical issues will include examining pre-deployment checks and maintenance routines. Although a challenge, the technical issues have had a minimal impact on operations; missiles were still fired, interdiction operations were completed, and the ships continued with their programs. This is a testimony to the tremendous training and the skills of our sailors to rectify these deficiencies at sea and alongside”, said Rear-Admiral Craig Baines, Commander of Maritime Component Command.