The Company of Master Mariners of Canada is very much encouraged by the federal government’s decision to acquire additional icebreaking vessels to supplement Canada’s existing fleet of aging icebreakers.
The announcement to purchase and repurpose to Canadian requirements three icebreaking offshore supply vessels with towing capacity will greatly enhance reliability of the existing Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) fleet. Recent announcements propose the purchase of Tor Viking, Balder Viking and Vider Viking to be refitted at Davie Shipbuilding in Lévis, Quebec, with the first vessels to be operational for the 2018-2019 ice season in the Saint Lawrence, Saguenay and East Coast Newfoundland waters.
These three 18-year old vessels present a short term solution to CCG’s growing demand for icebreaking services for Canada’s Great Lakes, Saint Lawrence, Saguenay and Eastern Canadian waters as well as the Canadian Arctic which has seen a significant increase in marine traffic in recent years. Three additional vessels will provide middle-class employment for Canadian marine professionals such as those represented by Master Mariners of Canada. These multipurpose vessels also respond to the 1990 “Brander-Smith” report which recommended the Government of Canada acquire powerful tugs, capable of towing disabled tankers, and other ships away from environmentally-sensitive areas.
Captain Christopher Hearn, President of Master Mariners of Canada said: “Master Mariners of Canada fully support the direction of the Canadian government to add additional capacity to provide icebreaking and support services to shipping on the Lakes, St, Lawrence and NL regions. Our organization has many members who work on both Coast Guard ships providing icebreaking as well as ships that require this specialized service. As an organization that is reflective of the expertise in navigating in ice covered waters, MMC continues to advocate for recognition of the unique operational challenges and personnel competency of the Canadian Shipping industry.”
The “Balder” trio is neither the final nor the ultimate solution to the icebreaker capacity required for Canada. New vessels with modern propulsion systems will be required to meet Canadian emissions requirements beyond 2020 and up to 2050 which may present a challenge for both the existing Canadian Coast Guard fleet and the “Balder trio”.
Master Mariners of Canada encourages the federal government to quickly review and decide on options available for the permanent acquisition of new icebreakers.