DEFSEC Atlantic returns to Halifax

Exhibitors line the floor of the Cunard Centre at DEFSEC 2017 in Halifax.

Shipbuilding, procurement in the spotlight at DEFSEC Atlantic 2018

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident Staff

Excitement surrounding the National Shipbuilding Strategy is heating up as one of Canada’s largest defence industry trade shows gets set to return to Halifax.

The Canadian Defence Security and Aerospace Exhibition Atlantic (DEFSEC) is being held from October 2-4 at the Cunard Centre, and Executive Director Colin Stephenson said the show’s various exhibitors, including many small and medium sized businesses based in Atlantic Canada, are excited about opportunities involving the Royal Canadian Navy’s future fleet of ships.

“With the ship program nearing completion of the launch of the first vessel, and the Canadian Surface Combatant in its marketing phase, I think people are starting to understand how the process is working and how it will improve as we go along.”

HMCS Harry DeWolf is expected to be in the water in the coming weeks, marking a major milestone for the program, and with a winning CSC bid to be announced by the end of the year, firms are hoping to find ways to have their products involved.

“Now that we have one piece of the program under our belt, industry and government have a better understanding of how to take advantage of the opportunities, and that’s what we’re excited to be able to present to people this year,” Stephenson added.

There is also excitement among industry, including member of the local Atlantic Canada Aerospace and Defence Association, about the Government’s Sustain Initiative, which involves changes to in-service support contracts and the relationship between DND and contractors. BGen Michael Barker, Director General Aerospace Equipment Program (DGAEPM), will be at DEFSEC to deliver a presentation on the initiative as part of the event’s seminar series of panelists and keynote speakers.

The main attraction that brings companies to the floor each year is the access to major contractors like Irving Shipbuilding, Lockheed Martin, Thales Group, and others who occupy some of the largest booths at DEFSEC. Local companies want to develop relationships with those large procurement contract-winners and become part of their supply chain, and DEFSEC allows them to do that, while also getting key information on the fly about things like industry qualifications or security ramifications through the different associations and government facilitators who are present.

“It takes dozens to thousands of companies to produce a ship or an aircraft or any equipment along those lines. It’s a huge pyramid that people want to be a part of,” Stephenson said.

Changes to DEFSEC for this year include a move from September to October, which should reduce heat levels in the crowded exhibition hall, but will also allow for extra involvement from the academic world. Students from NSCC and Dalhousie in STEM fields will be invited to attend to meet with industry players and seek out potential post-graduation opportunities.

The show will also have an extra piece of RCN involvement. Normally, HMCS Sackville ties up outside the Cunard Centre for tours and for use as a meeting space, but with the museum ship still in refit at HMC Dockyard, HMCS Charlottetown will be alongside to take its place.

“To have a Canadian Patrol Frigate out there on display, and to have the ship’s crew for people to meet and interact with, will be a great new addition for us,” Stephenson added.

Registration will be offered free of charge to employees of the Canadian Government, including CAF members, offering access to the main exhibition and presentation halls inside the Cunard Centre.

“We want military members to come by and see the latest innovations in their field of work. They’re the button pushers and trigger pullers, and industry loves to interact with them,” Stephenson said, adding that CAF personnel can often offer helpful feedback on new pieces of software or equipment due to their experience working with older technologies and knowledge of what’s needed to support real-world operations.

Many of the firms attending DEFSEC also see uniforms in the crowd as a potential HR opportunity, with trained military members often transitioning to roles within the aerospace or defence industries. Online registration will be open soon, and CAF members can visit to sign up. Acceptable military identification on site will be the NDI10(Temporary ID Card), the NDI20 (Canadian Forces ID Card) or the NDI30 (Allied Force ID Card).

With the event now in its 13th year on the Halifax Waterfront, organizers are thrilled they’ve once again sold out their exhibition floor, with between 70 and 80 separate booths expected, along with more than 10,000 total attendees from 12 different countries.

“We’re still the second largest event of this type in the country, so we’re very pleased we’ve been able to maintain the momentum of the event over the years and again this year while moving ahead a month on the calendar,” Stephenson said.