Interim AOR update

Federal Fleet Services CEO Spencer Fraser speaks to a crowd about Project Resolve at DEFSEC Atlantic in Halifax on September 6.
Photo: Ryan Melanson/Trident Staff

Federal Fleet Services unveils new details of Navy AOR project

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident Staff

As the Atlantic Fleet prepares for the delivery of the Navy’s interim supply ship, the head of the company responsible for operating the new civilian-owned vessel spoke to industry experts and defence officials in Halifax with new details about the MV Asterix and Project Resolve.

Federal Fleet Services CEO Spencer Fraser gave a presentation at DEFSEC Atlantic, one of Canada’s largest defence trade shows, which was held in Halifax from September 5-7. Federal Fleet Services is the sister company to Davie Shipbuilding, which purchased and converted the German cargo ship into a fully-capable tanker ship to be used by the Navy.

The latest update on the project came with the company’s announcement of a new operations sub-centre to be opened in Halifax in the coming months to coincide with the Asterix arriving in its initial homeport of Halifax later this fall.

Though plans are for the ship to sail on both coasts, including a deployment to RIMPAC in 2018, CEO Spencer Fraser said the majority of the ship’s civilian mariners will be from Nova Scotia. In total, Federal Fleet Services says the new Halifax sub-centre will create 718 jobs annually through the project’s 10-year provision of services agreement, while generating an additional $1.8 billion in economic spinoffs through that period.

“We’re proud to be in Halifax and our ship will be home ported here just a couple months from now. We’re looking to have a big economic impact in this city,” Fraser said.

With a number of RCN personnel attending the presentation, Fraser highlighted some of the major differences to be found in the Asterix as compared to the Protecteur-class AORs that many RCN sailors are familiar with. The supply ship will utilize an integrated bridge that allows for additional monitoring of machinery and damage control systems, he said, and for the RAS capability, more of the equipment, including winches, are contained below deck.

“Nothing is exposed anymore, which is a massive change from the Protecteur class in terms of executing the operations on board.”

More details about the accommodation on board were also revealed, and sailors can expect private cabins for the most part, with wireless internet, heated floors, and gym equipment operated by GoodLife Fitness.

“All of the capabilities of the Protecteur class are being restored, and in cases where we could make improvements upon those, we did,” he said.

As for the working relationship between civilian mariners and Navy personnel, or ‘CAF Mission Specialists’ as they’ll be called, Fraser said Federal Fleet Services will employ two 36-person civilian crews broken down into three departments – deck crew, engineers, and hospitality staff. Similarly, the Navy has described having two separate East and West coast crews for the ship, whose duties will revolve around RAS, flight operations, health services and logistics.

The ship plans to sail with 150 people on board, with the ability to add an additional 350 for major humanitarian efforts or other overseas operations. The galley will be prepared to serve 500 hot meals in one sitting, with an elevator straight to the flight deck for quick transfer of food to shore if needed.

Fraser described Project Resolve as a success so far, with the converted ship floated up on Labour Day and now undergoing initial trials in Quebec, on track to be delivered to the Navy within 24 months of the initial contract signed with the Federal Government in December of 2015. While the project hasn’t been free of controversy or questions due to the unorthodox operating relationship between the private firm and the Navy, he said the importance of restoring the RCN’s tanker capability is what stands out. The Navy’s new supply ships to be built from scratch in British Columbia, the Queenston class Joint Support Ships, aren’t due for delivery until 2021 and 2022.

“We’re doing what many Navies across the world have done for non combatant ships, which is to take a civilian ship, in this case a brand new 700 TEU cargo ship, and we’re converting it to have AOR capability,” Fraser said.

“We’re going to have a true blue-water Navy.”