FMF under the gun for RIMPAC readiness

Antoniette Yap, a millwright apprentice at Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton, cleans the 57mm barrel of HMCS Winnipeg’s main gun while conducting an inspection of naval ordnance.

Antoniette Yap, a millwright apprentice at Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton, cleans the 57mm barrel of HMCS Winnipeg’s main gun while conducting an inspection of naval ordnance.


Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

It’s been all hands on deck lately at Fleet Maintenance Facility (FMF) Cape Breton to get HMCS Winnipeg ready for the upcoming RIMPAC 2020 exercise and an overseas deployment afterwards.

Their ultimate goal is to get the Halifax-class frigate into a state of high readiness level 3 by the end of July, in time for the August multinational military exercise off Hawaii.

The process was more demanding than usual because military personnel and civilian staff have been slowed by the strict physical distancing and COVID-19 mitigation guidelines.

It’s been an aggressive work schedule across multiple platforms totalling more than 2,500 employee work hours a week. Currently involved in preparing the ship for sea are the crew, Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton, and the Fleet Technical Authority.

There are three major aspects to the work package: preventative maintenance, corrective maintenance, and engineering changes.

Some of the preventative and corrective maintenance relate to the high pressure air ship support system that provides air for gas turbine start bottles, the diesel generator start system, and the torpedo tube flasks.

New engineering changes include systems and helicopter upgrades for the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter, such as moving ship and deck lighting, and hangar rearrangements to fit gear necessary to support the aircraft. All of the work in Winnipeg’s work package is critical to the ship’s operational readiness and ability to deploy.

Geoff Michael, leader of FMF’s Project Management Team, says both the planning and work on Winnipeg are being conducted simultaneously.

Due to the time constraints, some jobs had to start in advance of the official work period in order to ensure they were completed on time.

He emphasized that COVID-19 precautions have complicated the critical planning phase and project management operations since only essential employees are able to work on site. This means the lion’s share of the project planning and management is being done virtually. Employees are juggling family and child care with work commitments, and have set up home offices with the right computer software so they can meet their work objectives.

In order to properly engage all stakeholders, FMF uses telecom lines and cloud computing to communicate the project plan, establish a schedule, and report on progress and risk.

“I have been very pleased that we were able to deliver an executable work package at the end of the planning phase of this project; this was no small task,” said Michael. “All of the people who were part of this process should be proud of this accomplishment.”

Adding to the unique challenge of the Project Management Team was reducing a typical 16-week planning process required for most frigates into eight weeks in order to get Winnipeg to sea.

Michael shared management of the planning work with Ship Service Officer PO1 Lee Richardson, with the pair alternating their on-site presence each week.

“For me, working from home was a different situation because my kids have grown up and I had lots of distraction-free time to bang away at this project,” said PO1 Richardson.

Also crucial to the project is Bruce Johnson, FMF Trials Project Leader. Along with Fleet Engineering Readiness, he is overseeing approximately 185 trials on the ship’s key equipment required every five years for the navy’s standard tiered readiness program for all vessels.

At the end of the day, Michael says the entire staff at FMF should be congratulated for the excellent team work they are doing.

“FMF is known for providing agile and flexible quality engineering and maintenance services to the Royal Canadian Navy and its fleets, which I have witnessed firsthand in this latest project,” said Michael. “I believe that during this pandemic we have tested and continued to prove our resolve and resilience.”

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