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After Long Battle, Davie Secures National Shipbuilding Strategy Order

Davie Shipyard icebreaker
Illustration courtesy Davie Shipyard

Published Mar 26, 2024 10:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

Davie Shipbuilding has secured its first contract under Canada's National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS) for the design of the Canadian Coast Guard's six-ship Program Icebreaker series. The award vindicates Davie's decade-long effort to become a designated NSS shipyard and secure a share of the program. Details on delivery timeline and vessel cost have not been released.

"The new fleet will be symbolic of Canada’s Arctic presence and crucial to keeping our country open for business year-round," said Public Services Minister Jean-Yves Duclos in a statement.

The contract gives Davie the green light to set up project management and design offices for the Program Icebreaker, launch recruitment efforts to build its team, and begin talks with subcontractors.

Chantier Davie was inducted into the National Shipbuilding Strategy in early 2023, following a three-year period of negotiations on the terms of an umbrella agreement. The yard and the Canadian government have debated over whether the agreement's details may be released

The deal's initial C$8.5 billion phase includes six icebreakers and one polar icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard, plus two hybrid ferries. It represents a substantial part of the Canadian Coast Guard's fleet recapitalization program, and is urgently needed to replace aging and hard-to-maintain tonnage for Arctic operations.

The NSS was conceived in the late 2000s as a way to smooth out the boom-and-bust cycles of fleet renewal and provide a steady workflow to shipbuilders. In 2012, Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax won the program's larger "Combat" package, and Seaspan in Vancouver secured the "Non-Combat" package. 

Quebec-based Davie submitted bids for the NSS, but was not initially selected. It still sought ways to compete, and in 2019, the Canadian government reopened the program to new participants. The new tender sought yards qualified for icebreaker construction and ultimately selected Davie.

Davie's previous icebreaker contract - the conversion of three icebreaking offshore vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard - cost more than forecast and delivered later than expected, according to Canadian media. Going forward, the company has the support of icebreaker specialist Helsinki Shipyard, which Davie purchased last year.