Irving shipyard marks start of contract to build 15 navy warships

Defence Minister Bill Blair (left) shakes hands with Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee (right) at the Irving shipyard in Halifax on Friday, June 28, 2024. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Defence Minister Bill Blair (left) shakes hands with Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee (right) at the Irving shipyard in Halifax on Friday, June 28, 2024. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Hundreds of Irving shipyard workers and invited guests cheered as one of their newest colleagues, Deion Parsons, made a test weld on a piece of steel to mark the beginning of a contract that may keep the young welder employed for at least 25 years.

The Halifax yard has been contracted to build 15 destroyers for the Royal Canadian Navy to replace the aging and increasingly expensive-to-maintain Halifax-class frigates.

Defence Minister Bill Blair called it "the largest shipbuilding initiative that Canada has undertaken since the Second World War."

During the 25-year construction period, it's expected the project will create and maintain more than 10,000 jobs and generate in excess of $40 billion for the country's gross domestic product, Blair told a large crowd of workers gathered in Module Hall, one of the yard's assembly buildings.

"I also believe that the path we are setting for ourselves today will lead to sustainment of those jobs and those opportunities well beyond 2050."

Blair used the occasion to announce the new class of navy ships would carry the names of major Canadian rivers. The first, due to be completed and ready for sea trials by 2033, will be named HMCS Fraser. The next two will be called the Saint-Laurent and the Mackenzie.

Hundreds of workers at the Irving shipyard in Halifax celebrated the start of a contract that will keep many of them in their jobs for decades. The yard will build the Royal Canadian Navy 15 ships to replace the current fleet of frigates.
Hundreds of workers at the Irving shipyard in Halifax celebrated the start of a contract that will keep many of them in their jobs for decades. The yard will build the Royal Canadian Navy 15 ships to replace the current fleet of frigates.

Hundreds of workers at the Irving shipyard in Halifax celebrated the start of a contract that will keep many of them in their jobs for decades. The yard will build 15 ships for the Royal Canadian Navy to replace the current fleet of frigates. (Robert Short/CBC)

Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, called the start of the building process "an incredible milestone."

"We need to build those ships to make sure that we continue to protect and defend our waters, to assure our sovereignty and security in an increasingly dangerous world," said Topshee.

He later told reporters the River-class destroyers are similar to ones being built for the British and Australian navies but Canada plans to equip and deploy them for a different purpose.

"For them, they are anti-submarine warfare escorts," said Topshee. "For us, they're a command and control platform. They're an air warfare destroyer platform.

"So it really is a traditional destroyer capable of doing anything a warship needs to do, anywhere in the world."

According to a fact sheet provided by the Department of National Defence, the Canadian surface combatants project is budgeted at $56 billion to $60 billion.

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