Newfoundland and Labrador could be the big winner in Ottawa's plan to replace the navy's aging supply ships, as two of the four consortiums bidding on the project plan to utilize shipyards in that province. Canadian North Atlantic Marine Partnerships and BAE Systems both say they intend to build the three 28,000-tonne ships in the province, if they are the successful bidders. A third consortium, headed by General Dynamics Canada, said it would place the work at the Davie Marine shipyard in Quebec. The final bidder, SNC Lavalin ProFac, has said its proposal would see the ships constructed in Victoria (British Columbia).
Last April, Canadian Defence Minister Bill Graham set in motion the $2.1-billion contract for the ships, which are expected to enter service in 2012. On the drawing board for almost 11 years, the federal government announced in last spring's budget that it was moving forward with replacements for HMCS Preserver and HMCS Protecteur. Aside from the fact the two supply ships are over 35 years old, both vessels lack the ability to be able to move trucks and armoured vehicles. That is a key requirement for the army, which has spent an increasing amount of time overseas in the last few years.
The navy proposal would see the new ships acting as supply stations for frigates at sea and as heavy-lift transports. The 200-metre vessels would also act as floating headquarters for army units, but they would not have the capability of carrying troops. The navy, like other branches of the service, is facing a manpower crunch and the specifications call for the ship to be highly automated, with "30 to 50 per cent" fewer crew members than the 290 sailors aboard each of the current supply ships. Visit PMO JSS website for more details about the Joint Support Ship project.