Canada anchors $15.7 billion coast guard renewal in B.C.

Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards will build up to 16 vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard, funded by the federal government

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $15.7-billion plan to renew Canada’s coast guard in Vancouver on Wednesday, May 22 | Dan Toulgoet/Vancouver Courier

What happened: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $15.7 billion investment to renew the Canadian Coast Guard fleet.

Why it matters: Government says the investment will create jobs, and “certainty and long-term viability” for Vancouver’s shipbuilding industry.

Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards will play a key role in delivering Canada’s “full renewal” of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed $15.7 billion to build 18 new ships for the coast guard’s aging fleet – part of which is nearly as old as the 58-year-old organization itself, according to the prime minister.

Vancouver Shipyards will build up to 16 multi-purpose vessels, which will support light icebreaking, environmental response, and offshore search and rescue activities.

Trudeau said the investment will create “certainty and long-term viability” for Vancouver’s shipbuilding industry. He said it will also create new jobs, from ship design and engineering, to construction, welding and inspection.

“It only makes sense that for the new coast guard fleet, we’re turning to workers here in Vancouver and across Canada to get the job done,” he told reporters in Vancouver.

Seaspan's vice-president of government relations welcomed the announcement. Tim Page said the company is keen to sit down with the coast guard and get more details about the ships. It remains unclear how large the ships will be and when they will be delivered.

Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax will build two Arctic and offshore patrol ships, to be adapted for the Canadian Coast Guard.

Both companies are the federal government’s partners under Canada’s 30-year, $35-billion National Shipbuilding Strategy. 

As the new vessels are built, the federal government has earmarked more than $2 billion to repair and refit the coast guard’s existing fleet. It will also provide more than $351 million to enhance the coast guard’s operations.

“Today’s announcement goes far beyond one shipyard, one industry, or one part of the country. We’re re-invigorating Canada’s world-class marine industry,” stated Trudeau in a news release.

As part of the announcement, the federal government revealed it intends to add a third partner to its National Shipbuilding Strategy to support future coast guard needs.

Page said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision. Opening the strategy to another shipyard, he says, “effectively changes the playing field and rules of engagement” under which Seaspan, along with Irving, were awarded agreements by the federal government in 2011.

– With files from Jane Seyd, North Shore News