The federal government is greenlighting plans to start some work on the navy’s new support ships in the coming months in a bid to keep delivery of the much-needed vessels from slipping farther behind schedule.
Sources tell The Canadian Press that Seaspan Shipyards will begin to cut steel on some parts of the two vessels in Vancouver this summer during a lull in the construction of two science vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard.
The science vessels will still be delivered first, but officials are hoping that the head start will result in the first Protecteur-class joint support ship, as the naval vessels are officially known, being delivered in 2022.
That would be a year earlier than the Department of National Defence’s current estimate for the ship’s completion.
Construction on the first vessel was supposed to start in 2016, with delivery slated for 2019, but the project has been plagued by delays and the government says its $2.3-billion budget is under review.
The navy has been without a permanent support ship since 2015, when it was forced to retire its existing vessels due to an unexpected fire and corrosion issues, though it is leasing a temporary replacement, the MV Asterix.