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Canada's 56-Year-Old Heavy Icebreaker Goes for Another Life Extension

chantier davie
Louis S. St-Laurent during a previous refit at Davie (Chantier Davie)

Published Mar 14, 2022 3:54 AM by The Maritime Executive

Canada’s largest icebreaker, Louis S. St-Laurent, is set to undergo major repair, refit and maintenance work to extend its lifespan and keep the ship in service, giving Canada more time for the construction of two replacement icebreakers.

Public Services and Procurement Canada has awarded a $12.8 million contract to Chantier Davie shipyard in Quebec to carry out the vessel life extension. The project is a part of Canada's National Shipbuilding Strategy, which involves (among many other projects) the construction of two polar icebreakers. The timetable calls for delivering at least one polar icebreaker by 2030, when Louis S. St-Laurent is expected to retire from service.

“Members of CCG have the critical responsibility of ensuring mariners’ safety and that of the marine environment. The Louis S. St-Laurent has helped keep Canadian waters safe for navigation for more than 50 years, and this work will ensure the CCG can continue this important work, season after season, in dangerous and icy conditions,” said Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and CCG.

Chantier Davie is the only facility in Eastern Canada with a dry dock large enough to perform the work. Repairs and upgrades on the icebreaker will begin in the spring and are expected to be completed within three months. More drydockings are planned over the next few years to keep the vessel running throughout the next decade.

Louis S. St-Laurent was launched in 1966, making her among the oldest working government vessels in North America - even older than the U.S. Coast Guard's heavy icebreaker Polar Star. This is far from her first life extension: she was lengthened, re-engined and heavily modified in a refit in the late 1980s. Today she provides icebreaking and emergency response services in Eastern Canada, and her home port is in St. John’s.