The National Shipbuilding Strategy and the Canadian Coast Guard


The National Shipbuilding Strategy is helping restore our shipyards, rebuild our marine industry and create sustainable jobs in Canada while ensuring our sovereignty and protecting our interests at home and abroad.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy allows the government and shipyards to make significant investments in Canada’s marine industry, such as developing and maintaining expertise and creating sustainable employment across the country. It brings predictability to federal vessel procurement and aims to eliminate the boom and bust cycles of vessel procurement that slowed down Canadian shipbuilding in the past.

National Shipbuilding Strategy Milestones

The National Shipbuilding Strategy is a long-term investment that is delivering results now: ships for the Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard and jobs and economic growth for Canada. Contracts under the strategy are estimated to have contributed approximately $25 billion ($2.1 billion annually) to Canada’s gross domestic product and created or maintained more than 18,800 jobs annually to the Canadian economy between 2012 and 2023.

The following timeline highlights successes and milestones for the Canadian Coast Guard under the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

June 3, 2010: National Shipbuilding Strategy debuts

After consultations with the Canadian shipbuilding industry, the Government of Canada announced the National Shipbuilding Strategy in June 2010. It was built on three pillars:

  • Construction of large ships;
  • Construction of small vessels; and
  • Repair, refit and maintenance of existing fleets.

The construction of large ships was completed by two competitively-selected large Canadian shipyards, while the construction of smaller vessels was dedicated to other Canadian shipyards through competitive procurement processes. Future ship repair, refit and maintenance work was made available for competition through publicly announced requests for proposals.

Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels

In December 2017 the first of three Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels (OFSVs), the CCGS Sir John Franklin, was launched by Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards. It marked the first large vessel in Canada to be designed and built under the National Shipbuilding Strategy. More than 1,100 workers helped build the CCGS Sir John Franklin, with more than 15 trades being used during construction.

The CCGS Sir John Franklin was delivered to the Canadian Coast Guard on June 27, 2019. The other two OFSVs – the CCGS Jacques Cartier and CCGS John Cabot – were delivered in November 2019 and October 2020 respectively.

The new research science vessels operated by the Canadian Coast Guard, are used by Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists to collect data across Canada’s vast marine ecosystems. The vessels are able to fish in deeper waters than the existing science vessels, operate in the southern Arctic during the summer season, and provide modern marine laboratories to scientists.

Extensive fleet renewal and life extension funded

In May 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Government of Canada would be investing $15.7 billion to renew the Canadian Coast Guard’s fleet, with up to 16 Multi-Purpose Vessels to be built at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards and two new Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships to be built at Irving Shipbuilding Inc.

The Multi-Purpose Vessels will allow the Canadian Coast Guard to carry out multiple missions, including icebreaking in moderate ice conditions and assisting in shipping and spring time flood control in the St. Lawrence waterway and Great Lakes region; search and rescue, emergency response, and security and protection missions; and maintaining Canada’s aids to navigation.

The Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships will serve a variety of purposes, including supporting a range of critical missions, including North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) patrols; operating as the primary conservation and protection enforcement vessels on Canada’s east coast, replacing existing Coast Guard offshore patrol vessels; and expanding its patrol capability into the low Arctic.

Prime Minister Trudeau also announced the investment of $2 billion in funding on a competitive basis for repairs, refits, and vessel life extension work on the existing fleet until new ships are delivered.

Program icebreakers

In August 2019, the Government of Canada announced the planned procurement of six new program icebreakers to replace the Canadian Coast Guard’s aging fleet of icebreakers. Program icebreakers are essential to Canada’s economy by supporting year-round marine trade in Eastern Canada, the St. Lawrence waterway and the Great Lakes. They are also used to provide service to Canada’s northern residents by supporting the annual re-supply of goods to Canada’s Arctic communities and their industries.

Polar icebreakers

In May 2021, the Government of Canada announced the planned construction of two Polar icebreakers under the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver will build one of the two icebreakers. The other Polar icebreaker will be built by Chantier Davie of Lévis, Quebec. Early estimates are that the construction of the Polar icebreakers will generate approximately 300 jobs per vessel at the shipyards, and 2,500 jobs across the marine supply chain.

The new Polar icebreakers will extend the Canadian Coast Guard’s on-water Arctic operations to provide year-round access to the Canadian Arctic, with enhanced capabilities to support Arctic science and Canada’s sovereignty in the North. They will also play a key role in Canada’s Blue Economy by supporting ocean science and conservation activities needed to keep our waters clean and safe.

Third strategic partner under the National Shipbuilding Strategy

On April 4 2023, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced the addition of Chantier Davie of Lévis, Quebec, as the third strategic partner under the National Shipbuilding Strategy, joining Seaspan Shipyards of Vancouver, British Columbia and Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax, Nova Scotia. This agreement between Chantier Davie and the federal government marks the start of negotiations for contracts to support the renewal of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet and create skilled jobs. This will include the construction of the six Program icebreakers and a Polar icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. 

Small vessels fleet renewed

On May 25 2023, the Government of Canada announced $2.5 billion in funding for the renewal of the Canadian Coast Guard’s small vessels fleet. The investment will result in the acquisition of up to 61 small vessels, including six Mid-shore Multi-Mission Vessels (MSMM), one Near-Shore Fishery Research Vessel, 16 Specialty Vessels, Four Air Cushion Vehicles and 34 Search and Rescue (SAR) Lifeboats.

These small vessels will play an important role in the safety of mariners in Canadian waters and will support essential Canadian Coast Guard services and operations such as science research, aids to navigation, environmental response and search and rescue. Procurement is underway for the construction of a new hybrid electric Near-Shore Fishery Research Vessel, the first vessel to be procured under this investment. 

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