Steel cut on HMCS Max Bernays

A group of Non-Commissioned Members from across the formation attended the steel cutting on December 19 to mark the start of construction on the first HMC ship to be named after an NCM.
Photo: LS Dan Bard, FIS Halifax

Steel cut on HMCS Max Bernays, first RCN ship to be named after NCM

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident Staff

The Royal Canadian Navy and Irving Shipbuilding marked another important moment on the road to building Canada’s future naval fleet on December 19, when officials gathered at Irving’s Marine Fabricators facility in Dartmouth to cut the first steel to be used in construction of the future HMCS Max Bernays. Officials from Irving and senior RCN leaders were on hand, as well as Public Services and Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough.

The ship will be named after Chief Petty Officer Max Bernays, a Canadian naval hero from British Columbia, known best for his time as Coxn of HMCS Assiniboine during the Battle of the Atlantic, for which he was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal by the British Admiralty. CPO Bernays famously manned the helm by himself under heavy fire from German submarine U-210 in August of 1942, surrounded by smoke and flames. He ordered his junior sailors to safety and sent more than 100 telegraph orders to the engine room while executing all helm orders on his own, maneuvering the ship in position to ram and sink the enemy boat after a long and extremely hard-fought operation, during which Assiniboine lost one sailor and 13 others were wounded.

Each ship of this class is being named after individuals who exhibited outstanding leadership and heroic service during wartime, and CPO Bernay’s story is one that fits squarely within that criteria, making this a good opportunity for the Navy to name a ship after an NCM for the first time. To mark the occasion, a group of non-commissioned sailors from various ranks and trades across the formation, led by HMCS Harry DeWolf Coxn CPO1 Gerry Doucet and Formation Chief CPO1 Pierre Auger, were also in attendance as the first steel was cut for HMCS Max Bernays.

The ship will be the third of the Harry DeWolf-class Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels being built for the RCN by Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, with HMCS Harry DeWolf set to be delivered in 2018, followed soon after by HMCS Margaret Brooke, and then Max Bernays in late 2019. The government has ordered six of the patrol ships in total, and Irving has indicated that all six are still on track to be delivered by 2022, with the shipyard then set to begin construction on the Canadian Surface Combatant project.

Federal Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough was on hand to officially begin construction on the future HMCS Max Bernays
Photo: LS Dan Bard, FIS Halifax

“Today’s start of construction of the third Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship clearly shows that the National Shipbuilding Strategy is working very effectively,” said Irving Shipbuilding President Kevin McCoy following the official start of the construction. He added that unexpected issues and a learning curve for shipyard staff have factored into the construction process so far, but that lessons learned during construction of the first ship should result in faster construction timelines for the rest of the class. As for Harry DeWolf, which now sits outside the shipyard with its three mega-blocks fully assembled, McCoy said electrical cable is being installed in the ship now, and some of the first testing will begin in the spring.

Minister Qualtrough said the success of the program so far serves as an example of what can be achieved through cooperation between different levels of government, the Royal Canadian Navy, and private industry.

“Together we’re are achieving the goals of the Strategy while ensuring that the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces have the equipment they need to do their jobs.”