By R. Bruce Striegler

Initial AOPS contracts in place

In February 2012, the Government of Canada signed an umbrella contract with Irving Shipbuilding Inc. under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS). This is the first in a series of contracts leading to the delivery of new ships for the Royal Canadian Navy. Irving’s President, Steve Durrell says, “We consider the signing of the umbrella contract an important milestone and big step forward. It is the beginning of the formal process for the construction of the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) program.” 

AOPS will provide the Canadian Forces between six and eight fully supported vessels capable of conducting marine surveillance in Canada’s waters including the Arctic, the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the Northwest coast of British Columbia, as well as the St. Lawrence River. The ships will have flexibility to operate independently, year-round, in medium first-year ice conditions. They will have a range of 6,800 nautical miles, run for up to four months at a time and have a cruise speed of at least 14 knots, with a maximum speed of 17 knots. Government specifications indicate they will be armed, and are to remain operational for 25 years beyond Initial Operational Capacity.

Preliminary design phase underway

Mr. Durrell says that Irving Shipbuilding agreed with the government that AOPS be broken into two separate contracts. “One for the design and engineering phase, also called the definition contract, and one for the build phase which the government refers to as the implementation contract.” He adds that the benefit of structuring the agreement in this manner is that the design work for the vessels will be much more mature and better understood when putting together pricing and construction schedules.

In July, the Government signed a $9.3-million definition phase contract with Irving to enable the shipyard to review existing AOPS designs and specifications and create the necessary construction execution strategy. Mr. Durrell says, “This contract allows us to continue with the considerable work that is required to get ready for the design phase. It involves review of designs and creating cost estimates.”

He says there is a team of about 30 people working on this, adding, “It’s important for us to have the funding in place for the design phase by the end of this year so we can begin design and engineering work in January 2013.” Mr. Durrell says the next scheduled milestone will be signing the build contract in 2015, with plans to cut steel later that year. “We are planning delivery of the first AOPS in 2018, with completion of the contract in 2024.”

New ships and infrastructure an employment generator

NSPS, which has been called the largest procurement sourcing arrangement in Canadian history, is expected to create thousands of well-paying jobs in shipbuilding and related industries across the country. At Irving Shipbuilding, Mr. Durrell says the jobs are welcome. “Since the announcement of NSPS in October 2011 we’ve had more than 20,000 resumes. We currently have a workforce of 1,483 spread through Halifax Shipyard, Shelburne Ship Repair, and Fleetway and Oceanic engineering operations.” He says that the total workforce due to the NSPS projects will grow to about 1,500 over the life of the undertaking.

As well, Irving Shipbuilding is underway with yard improvements, “We estimate that our infrastructure investment will be in the order of $300 million, including engineering and construction work. This translates to about 2.3 million person-hours or approximately $73 million in wages in Nova Scotia.” Durrell outlines the infrastructure improvements, saying they will build a new fabrication hall, a new unit assembly hall and a new ultra hall. “We’re also constructing a land level facility where the ships will finally be integrated, upgrading all the piers at the North end of the yard and building a new launch dock.”