Canada will look to domestic or international firms to lease commercial vessels as it tries to deal with a capability gap in resupplying warships at sea.
The Royal Canadian Navy had looked at the potential purchase of surplus US Navy ships but that is no longer being considered because of the cost and lack of availability of vessels.
The Navy is officially removing from service over the next 16 months its two aging supply ships, HMCS Preserver and HMCS Protecteur. But already that capability is considered shut down. Preserver has serious corrosion issues and Protecteur was severely damaged after a fire broke out when it was on exercises off Hawaii in early 2014. It was towed back to its home port in Esquimalt, British Columbia, and will not be repaired.
The Navy won’t have a replacement fleet fully ready until 2021, leaving it with a gap when it will not be capable of resupplying its warships at sea. So Canada has asked companies for information about what at-sea services they can provide.
Industry sources said Canada is looking at leasing a commercial ship capable of resupplying its frigates and other vessels. At a minimum, the leased ships must be capable of refueling ships underway.
“The Department of National Defence is investigating interim options to address the at-sea support services capability gap,” department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said. “No decision on the way forward has been made at this time.”
But industry sources expect that decision to come this year as the need for a solution is critical.