From Sea-to-Shore: preparing for the Joint Support Ships

Military personnel and civilian staff from the Naval Personnel Training Group (NPTG) and the Transport Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (TEME) branch converged on D Jetty in Colwood on April 7. They were part of Initial Cadre Training for the new Sea-to-Shore connector. Their tasks included assembly and disassembly of the barge and its 12 modules. The Sea-to-Shore Connector will serve the navy’s new Joint Support Ships (JSS) and is designed to move large quantities of cargo or personnel quickly. The vessel depicted is one of four to be delivered to the navy in the coming months. Photo by DND.

Peter Mallett 
Staff Writer


The first of four Sea-to-Shore connector barges designed to serve the needs of the navy’s future supply ships has been delivered to Esquimalt.

The barge was set-to-work by maker Montreal-based Navamar Inc, who also provided initial cadre training to Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) members, allowing them to learn how the barge is assembled and operated, from April 4 to 8 at D Jetty in Colwood.

The modular self-propelled barge has multiple uses and configurations, is Canadian made, and engineered to be assembled from the platform of the upcoming Joint Support Ships (JSS). Their key feature is the ability to move large quantities of supplies or personnel to and from shore quickly, and the ability to be stored or transported like standard shipping containers.

While the Sea-to-Shore Connector’s primary use is a self-propelled barge, it can also transform into a bridge, a floating dock, or even a diving platform for salvage. It can even be useful for ship-side maintenance and inspections. They could be also deployed as standalone units, for example to support an Operation Lentus in dealing with floods throughout Canada.

The barge’s engines, ramps, and safety equipment will be stored in two separate 20-foot containers aboard the new Protecteur-class ships, once built. The 12 pontoons can be stored or stacked like sea containers. 

When required, the pieces of the interlocking pontoon system and two Thrustmaster engines will be lowered into the waters of protected harbours and inlets by the JSS’s crane. The connecting pieces will be pushed together by Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats and locked into place by placing pins between each pontoon, and locking them together. 

“The Sea-to-Shore Connector is the only vessel of its kind in the RCN and truly unique because of its utility, modularity, flexibility, and its ability to be put together in multiple configurations to become what you need for any specific operation,” said LCdr Mark McShane, Deputy Project Director for JSS. “It is going to be able to provide so much capability in terms of logistics and is transported in a standard way like any other shipping container on Earth.”

The self-propelled barge has a re-enforced steel hull and can hold up to 81 tonnes of supplies, vehicles, equipment, or personnel in the 3 x 4 configuration.

Its amphibious capability means it can be driven right up to a beach with its roll on/off ramp extended if no dock or jetty exists. 

When fully loaded, the Sea-to-Shore Connector can reach speeds up to five knots from power provided by its two Thrustmaster outboard propulsion units. Its Azipod thruster system is capable of turning the unit on a dime.

On April 7, 20 military personnel and civilian staff from Naval Personnel Training Group (NPTG) and the Naval and Training Development Centre practiced assembling and disassembling the 12 barge components, and dropping the engines into place under the instruction and guidance of two representatives from Navamar.

Later in the day, senior leadership from Maritime Forces Pacific, including RAdm Angus Topshee, were given a tour while alongside Esquimalt Harbour. The following day the Sea-to-Shore Connector was disassembled and put into storage at Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific).

The next step for the Sea-to-Shore Connector is developing training modules for personnel to be deployed in the JSS.

“This is a new piece of kit for a new vessel that we have never had before,” said LCdr Rowan Wilson, NPTG Staff Officer New Capability and Training. “We have learned a lot from the ICT phase with our MARTECH [Marine Technicians] and Boatswain training staff getting a chance to put their hands on it and assemble it, while also looking closely at the technical requirements to do the job successfully.”

The rollout of the training for members will be governed by the delivery of the JSS and the selection of its crew, says LCdr Wilson.

Following completion of the ICT on April 8, the equipment will be signed off by the Assistant Deputy Minister (Materiel) staff and officially transferred into possession of the navy. Three more barges are expected over the next 12 months, two more on the West Coast and one on the East Coast. Eventually each JSS will receive one Sea to Shore Connector, with each coast having one in reserve.


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