Polar icebreakers and the National Shipbuilding Strategy

Backgrounder

The Arctic region’s remoteness and extreme weather conditions present significant challenges to carrying out Coast Guard operations year-round. The acquisition of two new Polar icebreakers will enable the Coast Guard to operate in the Canadian Arctic throughout the year to fulfill Government of Canada missions in support of Indigenous Peoples and other northerners, Arctic sovereignty and security, high Arctic research, and to help respond to emergency situations.

These new Polar icebreakers will be the largest ships in the Coast Guard fleet, with each ship having the following expected specifications:

  • 150 meters in length;
  • a beam of 28 meters;
  • a top speed of approximately 18+ knots;
  • accommodation for up to 100 crew and personnel; and
  • a range of approximately 30,000 nautical miles.

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 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.

Having Polar Icebreakers dedicated to the Arctic, as well as new Program Icebreakers to replace the aging icebreaking fleet, will increase the Coast Guard’s overall capabilities for icebreaking in both northern and southern Canada and will provide more flexibility to respond to increased demands for icebreaking services in more challenging ice years and the shoulder seasons.

The two Polar icebreakers are being built under the Government of Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy and in accordance with the Canadian Coast Guard’s fleet renewal plan. At least one Polar icebreaker is expected to be in service by 2030.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy - creating jobs for Canadians

The National Shipbuilding Strategy is reinvigorating Canada’s shipbuilding industry and marine sector and generating jobs and economic benefits for Canadians while providing Coast Guard members with the equipment they need to continue their important work.

Early estimates are that the construction of these ships will generate approximately 300 jobs per vessel at the shipyards, and 2,500 jobs across the marine supply chain.

To date, more than 20 vessels have been delivered to the Coast Guard under the National Shipbuilding Strategy, with more to come. Those delivered to date include:

  • 3 large Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels in support of scientific research
  • 18 smaller vessels, including:
    • 8 Search and Rescue lifeboats;
    • 2 Channel Survey and Sounding Vessels;
    • 7 Hydrographic Survey Vessels, and;
    • 1 Coastal Research Vessel.

These small vessels can provide search and rescue services including performing searches on the water, as well as providing assistance to disabled vessels and support aid to navigation programs.

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