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Seaspan awarded $500M in contracts for design, early work on 6 Coast Guard ships

The first of the larger ‘workhorse’ Coast Guard vessels to come out of North Vancouver's Seaspan Shipyards is scheduled to launch in 2030

The federal government announced Tuesday it has awarded two contracts worth $500 million to North Vancouver's Seaspan Shipyards to start design and pre-construction work on six large Coast Guard vessels.

The six multi-purpose vessels are among up to 16 of the vessels Ottawa first announced it would build at Seaspan in 2019, at an estimated cost of $15.7 billion under the national shipbuilding program.

North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of energy and natural resources, and Mike Kelloway, parliamentary secretary for the minister of fisheries and oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, were at Seaspan Tuesday morning to make the announcement.

The contracts announced Tuesday include a $310 million construction engineering contract for work to complete the final design of the first six ships and a second $180 million contract for sourcing of components that must be ordered far in advance of construction starting.

The six multi-purpose ships are intended to be the future workhorse vessels of the Coast Guard and will be equipped to deal with pollution, fisheries management, responding to marine distress calls and scientific research missions in waters ranging from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Great Lakes, Pacific and Arctic oceans. The ships will also be capable of ice-breaking in ‘moderate ice conditions,’ according to the government.

The ships will be significantly larger than the first three fisheries vessels built by Seaspan for the federal government under the national shipbuilding program, said company CEO John McCarthy, and will replace two existing classes of Coast Guard ships.

The first of the multi-purpose vessels are expected to be delivered in 2030.

Work on an offshore oceanographic science vessel and two navy joint support ships are also “well along” at the shipyard, said McCarthy. Launch dates for the science vessel and the first joint support ship are expected later this summer and fall.

In November, the North Vancouver shipyard marked a major milestone in the construction of the science vessel with the consolidation of its massive steel blocks into one solid ship.

That ship will replace the 60-year-old CCGS Hudson, which was decommissioned in 2022.

Last year, the budget for the oceanographic science vessel was updated from $995 million to $1.28 billion.

The shipyard is also working on the design of the polar icebreaker, “the flagship of the Canadian Coast Guard,” said McCarthy. “We plan to cut steel on that ship later this year.”

North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson tries out a VR model of a design for the new Coast Guard vessels at Seapan Shipyards. | Jane Seyd / North Shore News