New ships prepare RCN for Expanded Arctic Operations

Lieutenant-Commander Corey Gleason, Rear-Admiral John Newton and Captain (Navy) Michael Davie in Norway during staff talks.

Lieutenant-Commander Corey Gleason, Rear-Admiral John Newton and Captain (Navy) Michael Davie in Norway during staff talks.

Darlene Blakeley, Navy Public Affairs Ottawa ~

The commanding officer of the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) first Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessel has already been chosen, and work has begun to ensure everything is ready when HMCS Harry DeWolf is delivered in 2018.

Lieutenant-Commander Corey Gleason, along with a small preliminary crew, are preparing for the new vessel, one of six ice-capable offshore patrol ships that will conduct sovereignty and surveillance operations in Canada’s ocean areas of interest, including in the Arctic.

“It’s truly exciting to have this role as first commanding officer,” says LCdr Gleason. “The first ship in its class is always a lot of work and there’s a long road ahead – about five years between shore office work and the first operational cruise for the lead ship. We get the opportunity to pave the way for everyone else.”

This is essential work as the navy prepares for a busy future in Canada’s North, says Rear-Admiral John Newton, Commander Maritime Forces Atlantic.

“We take note of the significant changes being felt in the environment, industry, commerce, tourism, society and culture. It is a timely development that the RCN will soon take delivery of the first Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessel.”

He adds that the pending arrival of these vessels inspires the RCN to undertake bolder activities in all of Canada’s ocean areas. This past summer, maritime coastal defence vessel HMCS Moncton patrolled in Hudson Bay, while its sister ship HMCS Shawinigan was far west along the Northwest Passage, creating new learning experiences for sailors in the fleet.

“For several years now our crews have been increasingly busy familiarizing themselves with Arctic waterways and the communities that struggle with shifting economies, climate, and human activities,” says RAdm Newton. “We have engaged in new partnerships with government agencies that are keen to benefit from the support of the RCN.”

As things continue to change at a fast pace in an increasingly accessible Arctic – whether it’s the historic passage of the cruise ship Crystal Serenity through the Northwest Passage this summer, a refueling port for the navy at Nanisivik, Nunavut, scientific research, or increased external interests in the Arctic – the RCN’s role in the North is expanding rapidly and the new Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels will bring new responsibilities.

Construction of Harry DeWolf began in September 2015, and Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax is building the Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessel using a progressive build approach. Over the course of time, 65 smaller units become 21 larger blocks, which then become three mega-blocks.

LCdr Gleason says the engines have now been installed, the middle section is upright, and the entire ship will be soon sitting in the water.

“Trials will begin in 2018 and more routine seasonal deployments will be underway commencing in 2019,” he says. “However, there is a great deal of work to do before those deployments can take place.”

Also assigned to the ship at this time are LCdr Scott Meagher as executive officer and Chief Petty Officer First Class Gerry Doucet as coxswain.

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