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Canada lays keel for first Joint Support Ship

Photo: Canadian defense ministry

Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards on Thursday hosted a keel laying ceremony for the first of two Joint Support Ships to be built for the Royal Canadian Navy.

The keel laying event is a significant milestone in a ship’s construction where a newly minted coin is placed near the keel, which traditionally runs along the length of the ship.

This first JSS, the future HMCS Protecteur, is being built for the RCN through the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

The JSS are being built in modular blocks, and they do not have a traditional keel that runs the length of the ship. As a result, the coin was placed in an area near the center section of the ship.

Photo: Canadian defense ministry

HMCS Protecteur and HMCS Preserver will replace the former Protecteur-class auxiliary oiler replenishment vessels. As a warship based on the German Type-702 Berlin-class design, the JSS will include damage control and self-defense systems that will allow it to conduct a full range of military operations in high-threat environments.

In addition to providing at-sea replenishment, these multi-purpose warships will also be capable of seamlessly integrating with any Canadian or allied naval task group, and will significantly extend the range and endurance of these groups through the provision of fuel, ammunition, aviation support, food, spare parts, and medical and dental care.

Construction of the early blocks of the first JSS began in June 2018, with the delivery of the first ship expected in 2023. The shipyard will be building JSS blocks until the design for a new coast guard ocean science ship is ready. Starting work on JSS blocks in 2018 was a way of keeping Vancuver shipbuilders busy as works on three Coast Guard fisheries vessels were nearing completion before the ocean science ship design was ready.

While construction of the forward part of the ship is well underway, a contract for the remaining full construction of the first ship, the future HMCS Protecteur, is expected to be awarded in spring 2020.