(NORTH VANCOUVER, British Columbia) — Seaspan Shipyards has successfully completed construction of the “prototype block” for the Canadian Coast Guard’s polar icebreaker program. Construction of the block ensures that Seaspan has the proper processes, procedures, equipment and skills necessary to build the first heavy polar icebreaker in Canada in more than 60 years.
Seaspan developed and built the prototype block to ensure that its production teams are fully prepared to cut steel on the polar icebreaker in late 2024. The process of building the block resulted in knowledge in three key areas: improvements in design for manufacturing; testing of new equipment, processes and procedures; and validation of first-time quality in manufacturing to form and weld this new, specialized and thicker steel.
“Having the opportunity for our engineering and production teams to work collaboratively to construct this prototype block very early in the design process was beneficial not only to Seaspan, but also to our customer and our cross-country supply chain,” said Martin Edwards, chief program officer at Seaspan Shipyards. “We are all working toward the same goal of delivering the polar icebreaker to the Canadian Coast Guard. Our skilled trades team has now seen, felt, tested and worked on this specialized steel, so we are now better prepared to ensure that Seaspan begins full rate construction with a more mature design.”
Steel needed to construct the polar icebreaker is twice as thick in some areas as the steel Seaspan has used for the other ships built under the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS), and is more challenging to work with combined with the tight frame spaces to support icebreaking capabilities. It also takes additional time to weld, and the thicker steel is not as malleable, therefore constructing this extra prototype block prior to starting full rate construction was crucial for Seaspan’s preparedness.
“The completion of the prototype block for our polar icebreaker is an important milestone for the Canadian Coast Guard,” said Mario Pelletier, commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard. “We eagerly await its delivery as this vessel will extend Coast Guard on-water operations and ensure the continuous delivery of critical services in the high Arctic. This includes search and rescue, environmental and humanitarian response, supporting important ocean science and Arctic sovereignty,”
Seaspan has already gained significant experience designing and building polar-class vessels, including three offshore fisheries science vessels which are now in service with the Canadian Coast Guard; an offshore oceanographic science vessel that is currently under construction at its Vancouver Shipyards location; and a class of up to 16 multi-purpose vessels (also polar class) that is currently in design.
The polar icebreaker will be a complex ship, designed to operate in the Arctic’s ice-covered waters, and will play a critical role in enabling the Canadian Coast Guard to transit and operate on more than 162,000 kilometers of Arctic coastline. The capabilities of the polar icebreaker will help sustain a year-round presence in Canada’s north in support of indigenous peoples and other northern communities, Arctic sovereignty, high-Arctic science (including climate change research), and the ability to respond to major maritime emergencies including search and rescue.
With Canada’s current largest Icebreaker, CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, set to retire at the end of the decade after 60 years of service, the new polar icebreaker will be one of the world’s largest and most powerful conventional icebreakers. The ship will be the flagship vessel of the Canadian Coast Guard’s icebreaking fleet.
With a displacement of 27,876 tonnes, the polar icebreaker will be 518 feet long and 92 feet wide and able to accommodate up to 100 personnel. It will be able to operate farther north, in more difficult ice conditions and for longer periods than any icebreaker in Canada to date.
Key design features include:
• IACS Polar Class 2 (PC2) heavy icebreaker
• More than 40 megawatts of installed power
• Ice-classed azimuthing propulsion system
• Complex, multi-role mission capability
• Scientific laboratories
• Moon pool (to allow for safe deployment of equipment from within the ship)
• Helicopter flight deck and hangar
• Vehicle garage and future remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) capability
Under the NSS, Seaspan has become a major economic and job creation engine. According to an economic analysis conducted by Deloitte, Seaspan has contributed $5.7 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product since 2012, while also creating or sustaining more than 7,000 jobs annually.