Naval history made – MV Asterix added to fleet

Members of NRU Asterix line the rails of the ship prior to the ceremony welcoming MV Asterix to the Atlantic Fleet March 6. Photos by Mona Ghiz, MARLANT PA

Members of NRU Asterix line the rails of the ship prior to the ceremony welcoming MV Asterix to the Atlantic Fleet March 6. Photos by Mona Ghiz, MARLANT PA

Ryan Melanson, Trident Newspaper ~

While alongside at HMC Dockyard in Halifax, Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment (AOR) ship MV Asterix formally joined Canadian Fleet Atlantic during a ceremony inside the ship’s hangar March 6.

The former commercial container vessel was stripped down and converted by Davie Shipbuilding in Quebec to meet the navy’s supply ship needs.

“I believe we are making naval history today,” said LCdr Jason Walsh, Commanding Officer, Naval Replenishment Unit Asterix, the unit that operates on board the ship alongside a civilian crew employed by Federal Fleet Services. “In addition to the robust capabilities and tremendous support that Asterix brings to the fleet and to the navy, the arrival of the ship also marks a new era of teamwork and cohesion between the RCN and the civilian mariners, who’ll be essential to ensuring the smooth and efficient operations of this vessel.”

Representatives from Davie and Federal Fleet Services were on hand for the welcoming, along with General Richard Steele, Director ADM(Mat), and a number of MLAs and MPs, including Ontario MP Cheryl Gallant, Vice Chair, Standing Parliamentary Committee on National Defence.

For navy representation, senior Maritime Forces Atlantic leaders were joined by VAdm Ron Lloyd, Commander Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), and RCN Chief Petty Officer, CPO1 Michel Vigneault, along with Honorary Naval Captains Fred George and Tom Paddon.

Ceremonial aspects of the day included the presentation of the ship’s bell and the breaking of the Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel Jack.

CPO2 (Retired) Debbie Eisan, an elder with the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax, also provided smudging in the hangar at the onset of the event.

Federal Fleet Services CEO Spencer Fraser described the ship as being designed “by sailors, for sailors,” with an extensive consultation process that brought in suggestions from hundreds of serving and retired military members.

Much has been made of the amenities in Asterix compared to other warships, with dorm-room style accommodations, wi-fi throughout, private catering, and full gym facilities designed by Goodlife Fitness. Fraser focused on the operational capabilities; however, the ship’s four (replenishment at sea) stations were designed by Toronto’s Hepburn Engineering.

“On the operational front, Asterix has the best replenishment at sea equipment available anywhere in the world,” said Fraser. “We briefed NATO on this several months ago, and there was wide recognition that Canada is now leading the pack.”

The ship isn’t equipped with weaponry, and will rely on the supporting forces for defence as it sails alongside them. Should the RCN take on new missions in more dangerous areas, the situation will be re-examined to determine whether it’s appropriate for Asterix to deploy.

VAdm Lloyd said the new AOR will sail with Canadian Fleet Atlantic ships in the coming months, and as the summer nears it will meet up with West Coast warships for a deployment to the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise off the coast of Hawaii.

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