Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Fisheries and Oceans

Issue 12 - Evidence - October 27, 2009


OTTAWA, Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at 5:02 p.m. to study issues relating to the federal government's current and evolving policy framework for managing Canada's fisheries and oceans (topic: matters related to the Canadian Coast Guard in the Western Arctic).

Senator Ethel M. Cochrane (Deputy Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Deputy Chair: Good afternoon. I see we have a quorum.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. My name is Ethel Cochrane. I am a senator from Newfoundland and Labrador, and I am the deputy chair of the committee. If I speak too quickly, do not mind; that is Newfoundland lingo.

Before I introduce the witnesses who will appear before us at this meeting, I will ask members of the committee to introduce themselves.

Senator Patterson: Dennis Patterson from Nunavut. Welcome.

Senator Watt: Senator Watt from Nunavik.

Senator Dallaire: Senator Dallaire from Quebec.

Senator Poy: Senator Poy from Toronto, Ontario.

Senator Greene: Senator Greene from Nova Scotia.

Senator Robichaud: Senator Robichaud from New Brunswick.

Senator Hubley: Senator Hubley from Prince Edward Island.

The Deputy Chair: One of the beautiful islands.

The committee recently returned from a mission to the Western Arctic to study matters related to the Canadian Coast Guard. The members want to follow up on this mission and the role of the Canadian Forces in the Arctic, and to hear about initiatives that have been announced to increase the presence of the Canadian Forces in that region.

More specifically, the committee asked to hear about the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship initiative. We would like to receive further details on the federal government's announcement in July of 2007 to add to the navy fleet six to eight new armed, ice-strengthened patrol ships to increase the presence of the Canadian Forces in our Arctic.

To speak on this initiative, we have received representatives from the Department of National Defence: Commodore J.E.T.P. Ellis, who is the Director General, Maritime Force Development, and Captain (Navy) E.G. Bramwell, Project Manager, Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship.

Thank you for accepting our invitation. We are really pleased to have you here as a result of our trip to the Arctic. You now have the floor, and the senators will follow with questions.

Commodore J.E.T.P. Ellis, Director General Maritime Force Development, National Defence: We are very pleased to be here today to present to you the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship and describe to you its capabilities, its concept of employment, and so on.

With your permission, I would like to go through a slide deck that has been distributed to the members of the committee. I will walk through a very brief presentation, which will take about 10 to 15 minutes, and then turn over the floor for discussion and questions.

I have Captain Bramwell with me. He is the project manager for the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship. He is a naval architect and the technical expert. I am the operator; I work on the admiral's staff. I am his adviser on requirements, capabilities and strategy, so I am the sponsor side of the house. I am the person to talk to about our concept of employment, the requirements and how those were developed.

We will do a little bit of a tag team. I will give the opening presentation and then we will move forward as you see fit.

Referring to the slide deck before you, we have already introduced ourselves. On the second slide, the objective that I have in mind today is to provide you, as per your request, with an overview of the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship project, talking about its capabilities and describing for you what we intend to deliver in fulfilment of that commitment.

Slide number 3 is the outline. I will talk about the overarching requirement — in other words, the policy that drove this project. I will talk about the project's objective, project timelines and definition design. I will talk from a project perspective, and then I will talk about the Arctic environment as we see it in the navy and how this fits in and helps bolster Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic — in fact, in all three ocean areas.

That is something I need to underscore. The Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship is Arctic and offshore, which includes the Atlantic and Pacific Arctic and offshore in the Arctic as well. It is quite a comprehensive capability, as you will see.

I will talk about the missions, as well as where we are in terms of the statement of requirements in the design. Through the presentation, you will see, and particularly at the back end where you have conceptual drawings of the current state of the design, so it gives you a sense of the kind of capability we are aiming to deliver for Canada.

The overarching strategic requirement is to bolster Canada's ability to assert its sovereignty in all three ocean areas. Obviously, the government must have effective tools to do that. While the navy is quite potent and powerful to assert that sovereignty in the Atlantic and Pacific approaches, we really lack the tools to do the fundamental job in the Arctic as it is today. This platform, the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship, will go a long way to filling that deficiency for the government.

Project objective is depicted in slide No. 5. As you said, Madam Chair, the government announced this initiative in July 2007, and set up a project to deliver six to eight Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships. The fundamental aim of the project was to deliver platforms to the navy that will provide an armed presence and surveillance in all three of Canada's ocean areas, but focusing particularly on the Arctic.

In the rest of my presentation I will focus mainly on the Arctic, because it is the focus of your discussion. However, I will describe the overall capabilities and I will try to place them in the Arctic context as much as I can.

[Translation]

At slide 6, you have the benchmarks.

[English]

The project is currently in a definition phase, and this slide lays out the timelines. Currently, we are in the process of getting ready to move to effective project approval. We have refined our statement of requirements by working with a design engineering firm. Captain Bramwell has been the primary contact with that firm. We have also done some broad consultation with allied navies that operate in the Arctic, as well as with our own Canadian Coast Guard. After all, they are the experts in Canada, not only in terms of our own Arctic but also in terms of Arctic operations in general. The Arctic is a new environment for the navy, so we have consulted quite broadly. We are not proud: We have stolen every good idea that we could steal to deliver this capability.

With the design contractor, the stylized designs you see on this slide represent the fruit of an engineering work, basically producing a design that we would offer up to industry to say, "Please build us this." We look at putting out a request for proposal early next year, gaining approval to proceed and actually build it in January 2011, and delivering the first ship in 2014. The remaining ships will be delivered in the years to follow.

The chart on this next slide is a simple, straightforward one. It depicts the strategic drivers that have influenced how we have approached this project, in terms of articulating the requirements for it and in terms of delivering the capability. It has allowed us to put more emphasis on some requirement areas versus others, to focus on our capacity to provide armed presence and to exercise control of the Arctic, as well as to have some flexibility in terms of mission sets.

We fundamentally recognize that while the navy supports other government departments frequently — we work quite closely with the Coast Guard, RCMP, CBSA, and others — this is the first platform where we have built the requirements to drive that interoperability to support that whole-of-government approach. Compatibility with both the Coast Guard and the RCMP are important features of what we are working on here.

Slide 8 is about AOPS missions and tasks. They are laid out in broad themes here. The first is the armed presence. The fundamental desire, at the outset, was to have an armed warship capability in the Canadian Arctic, something that we do not have now, or we have only in limited capability, because our frigates, destroyers and submarines do not have the ability to operate in ice. They can operate near ice but not in it.

I drank the Kool-Aid on global warming. I do not think it is a question of if the Arctic will open up, but when. I understand there is lots of debate on that. That has shaped our thinking in evolving this capability, in the sense that a ship typically has a design life of 25 years. The first one will be delivered in 2014, so it will be around in 2040. If you look at our current fleet, maybe it will be beyond that, to 2040 or 2050. The world will change between now and then.

Your first report in the spring speaks clearly and gives a good, concise description of the possible future in the Arctic, both in the archipelago and beyond the economic zone. We are building a ship that has enough built-in flexibility so that as the demand for capability grows, we will be able to add capability to it in the future. It is a measured approach: Build the fundamental pieces you need to operate now and allow for growth as the world evolves.

We have talked about the first piece, about presence, about the armed warship and about the fact that this ship needs to be not only flexible but also self-sufficient. We have talked about surveillance gaps in the Arctic and in our coastal approaches. While there are many other capabilities that help to weave a cloak of sensors — that is, to let us know what is happening in our own backyard — the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship will be another element in that cloak. It will be able to go out there with a relatively reasonable sensor sweep, detect a local area picture, pipe it back to the maritime operations centres and provide some awareness of its local position. If we have all those ships and our inter- maritime patrol aircraft also needing this information and the Coast Guard also feeding in, then we can collate in the marine security centres a picture of what is going on in our own backyard and broadcast that backyard so that everyone understands what is going on. It helps us to reduce and identify threats, and respond to whatever situations arise.

We have been explicit in talking about typical military roles of presence, surveillance, armed intervention, response and control, but we have also embedded the requirement to be able to support our other government departments. We recognize that the Arctic is a unique environment where cooperation is required, and where different government departments, federal, territorial, and so on, must work hand in glove and we have hoisted that lesson. It is really about the whole-of-government approach.

The next slide says "Today's Arctic Area of Interest." This is to give you a sense of how we are thinking about the Arctic in 2015 and where we see this ship being able to operate during that time frame. That is based on what we understand our middle-of-the-road predictions of ice capabilities to be. They are basically a marriage of current ice regime predictions of the future and the ice capabilities that we are building into the platform. The ship is designed to be able to operate in the Arctic during the navigable season. During this time, it would be four months of the year. We think it will expand over time.

Initially, we will deploy two of these ships at a time in the Arctic. They will be up there for about four months. They will leave as the navigation season recedes. We will be there while other traffic is there. Our role, as I said, is presence, surveillance and enforcing sovereignty. It is not usurping the Coast Guard's capabilities at all. It is, in fact, complementing them.

The ship is ice capable for its own purposes: in other words, to assure its own mobility and to assure it can move around the Arctic. It is not designed as an icebreaker. Coast Guard icebreakers are actually the lead blockers and take ships to resupply local communities. There is a clear distinction.

I would like to emphasize the notion of distance from the Arctic perspective. Our Canadian Arctic is a very vast and harsh environment, even in comparison with some of our allies. The Norwegians and Danes operate in their Arctic territories, but it is not the same size. They are postage stamp maritime areas in those nations in comparison to our own. The ice problem in the Canadian Arctic, as you are well aware, is much more significant in terms of multi-year ice than in some of the other circumpolar nations' areas.

The next chart shows tomorrow's Arctic area of interest with a series of concentric circles. They give you a sense of the kind of presence we can generate with four Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships. The black circle is the distance that the ship could transit in a 24-hour period in ice operating at about 5 knots. The blue circle illustrates operation in open water transiting at 14 knots. A helicopter is shown with the gold and red rings. It gives you the sense that if we include a helicopter, the response and surveillance capability expands significantly.

The dashed lines show how far the ship could go at 5 knots over five days. In other words, how much of our backyard can we watch with four ships, given the disposition of the islands? I do not know if that is sufficiently intuitive in the diagram or if my explanation is good enough. I will welcome questions later.

The vastness of the Canadian Arctic is important. To go from Halifax to Nanisivik is about the same distance as going from Halifax to Portsmouth, England. We have a huge country. That drives certain requirements. For instance, we have identified this ship to have a range of 600 to 800 miles. This is the ability to go from Halifax to the Western Arctic and back without having to refuel.

The next slide is the meat of the presentation. It is an enumeration of the different requirements built into the platform — what it is designed to deliver. It is primarily a commercially designed ship with a polar class 5 classification. Polar class 5 means that it is able to operate in one metre of new ice with old ice inclusion. Old ice is multi-year ice — the stuff that pokes holes and sinks ships. It is not only that the ship can go through one metre of first- year ice, it can deal with the impromptu, unknown, surprise chunk of floating concrete that can really cause problems.

As a polar class 5 vessel, it also has technical specifications that make its upper deck machinery operable year-round in the Arctic. Initially, our concept of operation only has it navigating in the navigable season. It has an open water speed of 17 knots. Obviously, speed is important in patrolling a vast area. This is true not only in the Arctic, but speed is probably more appropriate to its offshore duties. It is a bit of a trade-off, if you will. Speed requires a long skinny ship. For it to break ice, you need a short fat ship. This model is a hybrid of those two. You end up with this blend of capabilities. It has to be able to do operations in the Arctic as well as in the Atlantic and Pacific approaches.

I have talked about good seakeeping ability and gun armaments for sovereignty. Crew size will be 35 to 45. We will have 40 additional bunks to take on rangers or other government department partners, special mission teams, et cetera. We also have multi-purpose spaces on board the ship that can be used for planning, briefings, et cetera. We can do a variety of different tasks.

It will have a good complement of boats to move people and equipment ashore in austere environments. We specified the inter-operability with the emergency response team boats from the RCMP, special ops craft from the Canadian Forces, et cetera. We have the ability to embark capabilities into this platform.

We have also made space on the ship to add capability. That is done by creating places on board where we can bolt down mission packages that we are not working on currently but that may be delivered in the future if the need arises. In the future, if we wanted to bolt on some anti-submarine sonar capabilities or something like it that fit into a container, we could do it and operate it off the platform. I need to emphasis that this is not in the plan currently.

On the best advice of the Coast Guard, we understand that we need a helicopter even for icy winds in the Canadian Arctic. The initial idea was an ice avoidance small helicopter. We found the cost increment to make the flight deck and hangar capable of a bigger helicopter was not that much. Therefore, we have changed the requirement so that this ship will be able to land a Cyclone helicopter, the new maritime helicopter to be delivered. Although currently not intended to do that routinely, we think it will be a very easy way to add tremendous additional capabilities in the future. That helicopter will offer great surface and anti-submarine surveillance capability and anti-surface engagement capability.

I talked about cargo handling. This vessel has to be independent. It has a range of 6,800 miles, as I alluded to earlier.

General arrangement is shown on the next slide.

[Translation]

The next slide shows an overall view of the ship. You can see the dimensions of the ship as it was designed. You will also find a checklist. In the next slide, there are three images which show different views of the ship, and which give you a general impression of what the ship would look like based on the current design.

[English]

We have included a chart of internal spaces to give you a sense of the level of detail to which we have thought this through. You have the layout for the medical facility, the multi-purpose operations space that could be used for whatever specific mission the ship is tasked to do, and some embarked crew quarters.

The next slide is a submariner's view of this platform, the underwater view of the ship. Fin stabilizers provide it with better seakeeping ability offshore.

In some ways, the project reflects and articulates the government's intent to provide an added capability in the Arctic. That also will allow us to use this platform outside the Arctic navigable season in other ocean approaches to Canada. It is even conceivable that this platform would be able to do missions like counter-narcotics work in the Caribbean, humanitarian assistance or disaster relief if that were called upon.

[Translation]

Madam Chair, this concludes my presentation.

[English]

We are ready to answer any questions you may have.

The Deputy Chair: Has the captain something to say?

Captain (Navy) E.G. Bramwell, Project Manager, Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship, National Defence: I have nothing specifically to add, madam. The overarching view of the technical side of the project was summarized in Commodore Ellis' remarks. I would be happy to respond to questions on those points as they come up.

The Deputy Chair: Being the chair, I will ask the first question. If the AOPS are only to be available several years from now, in 2014, will Canada have any armed, ice-capable vessels in the Arctic in the meantime?

Commodore Ellis: As you saw probably this summer, we did Op NANOOK — the Canadian navy with submarines, frigates and Kingston-class patrol vessels. However, as I said, they are very limited in their capability. They can go near ice but they cannot go in ice; I guess the short and long of it is on the fringes, in very limited opportunity only. We are very limited. This is a capability that Canada does not have right now.

The Deputy Chair: Since the AOPS can only break first-year ice, will they be able to stay in the Arctic for as long a season as foreign commercial or military vessels?

Commodore Ellis: We believe that they will be able to stay in the Arctic for the full navigable season.

The Deputy Chair: Is that four months?

Commodore Ellis: Four months now, but as it stretches — Do you mean would they be able to stay in the Arctic as long as a Russian icebreaker or a military icebreaker?

The Deputy Chair: Yes.

Commodore Ellis: No, because it does not have that type of capability. However, it will be able to stay as long as the conditions are apt for its Polar Class 5.

For instance, if you end up in a situation where there is only first-year ice, as long as it is less than a metre, the ship will be able to stay there. As the Arctic opens up and as you get melting in the summer and then freezing in the winter — those places that do not get into that multi-year ice — this platform will be able to stay there for as long as the conditions allow it to stay there. We think that the navigable season right now is the best way to express it.

The Deputy Chair: In their northern working season or on the east and west coasts, will they be suitably equipped to fight military vessels if needed, or are they intended more for dealing with civilian vessels?

Commodore Ellis: They are intended to deal with the lower-threat end of the spectrum. This would not be a ship that would go and fight a frigate, destroyer or another warship. Its main armament, at this point, is designed to do enforcement more at the constabulary end of the spectrum than at the war-fighting end of the spectrum.

Having said that, as I said before, in the longer term, as the Arctic becomes a more complex place, building in additional capabilities is something we would look at, including importing capabilities very quickly by flying a helicopter on board. If we ever got to a kind of a state-on-state conflict — well, I am not going to divine the future.

Senator Robichaud: Do not start the war now.

Commodore Ellis: We are there to prevent conflict. Our mindset in the navy is very much that we are a preventive service.

The Deputy Chair: Yes, we know that, but not everyone else is a preventive service.

Senator Poy: This is my first time at this committee, so please forgive me if my questions sound naive.

Who are our allies in the Arctic, aside from the Norwegians and the Danes that you just mentioned?

Commodore Ellis: The Norwegians and the Danes.

Senator Poy: Is that it?

Commodore Ellis: Sorry, and the Americans, of course.

Senator Poy: I was waiting for that, but you said that was it.

Do these countries, and other countries such as Russia, recognize our Arctic sovereignty? Obviously, there is some kind of border that you have drawn. Who else recognizes it?

Commodore Ellis: I am not an expert on that in terms of who recognizes what. I know that there is a great deal of discussion. I understand there is a conference in Halifax happening as we speak, or very soon, to talk about that with five major Arctic powers.

My concern is with the role of the Canadian navy in asserting sovereignty in our maritime area — which includes our economic zone, as Canada has claimed it — and operating internationally as well, of course.

Senator Poy: I know those are the areas that Canada claims, but I am wondering what other countries recognize them. Would a country like Russia recognize what we have claimed?

Commodore Ellis: I really cannot speak to that, senator, unfortunately. I am not an expert on that subject, but there are disagreements. For instance, Canada and the U.S. do not necessarily agree on who owns what part of the Arctic.

We know that UNCLOS is requiring nations to make their claims as to how to carve up their claims on continental shelves, and so on. I know that Russia has some claims that overlap our own and that there are several overlapping claims. We have overlapping claims with Denmark, but I am really not an expert to tell you what those are.

Senator Poy: The lines would be drawn for these claims, but as far as I understand, the Arctic is just ice. There is no land mass there; am I correct?

Commodore Ellis: No, ma'am. There is ice, land and open water. There will be increasingly open water, and there will always be land and some ice.

Senator Poy: Yes, thank you.

Commodore Ellis: It sounds very prophetic.

Senator Poy: With the gun armaments, you just mentioned that it is really for patrolling and not for fighting. What is being ordered will not be ready until 2014. If we think in a few years' time there may be war in the Arctic, should we start ordering the ships now to be ready for then? It takes years to build the ships.

Commodore Ellis: Anything you could do, ma'am, to help us build ships faster, we would welcome with open arms, absolutely.

[Translation]

Senator Dallaire: I have some specific questions about this project.

[English]

First, just as a response, the gun armament will not be the 40-millimetre Bofors of the Second World War, right?

[Translation]

Commodore Ellis: No, it will be 25 millimetres, very modern.

[English]

Senator Dallaire: I noticed you did not include here the statement of operational requirement when it was approved, and you are going out for requests for proposals. What trade-offs did you need to make to get that SOR through in regard to the capability you are producing?

Commodore Ellis: I would say that the fundamental trade-off that we have made was on speed. I talked about that, the fact that you need a long skinny ship to go fast and a short fat ship to break ice.

We originally had a speed of 20 knots. We found that we could not achieve that in this platform for the budget and the numbers that we have. We have looked at it and we think we can mitigate the lower speed by having our rib-type craft, our raid craft and whatever aviation capability we put into the platform.

Senator Dallaire: Again, in the SOR, there is very limited space identified now for the possibility of troops. We have about 40 people from different possible areas, but what about troop-carrying capability, amphibious capability, because there are a lot of places where there is no wharf, and I know you have spoken of different small vessels. What dimension of troop capability did you include; or in the space that is not being used, do you have packages where you can add bunks and so on, including more medical facilities? As an example, if you are going through the North, that ship could go through different ports and provide medical services to the Inuit people, or stuff like that.

Commodore Ellis: First, the statement requirement calls for being able to move about a platoon-size of troops. A landing craft will be able to move troops and materiel ashore, a shallow draft, understanding the austere nature of most of the port facilities there; that is, the lack of infrastructure. We have spots for iso-containers. In the end, if we decide that we want to add some accommodation modules, we would build that. For instance, we have done that with the MCDVs, the Kingston class, where, on an iso-container footprint, we have added accommodations modules.

I am trying to stay away from vernacular, but there is this expression in the military, "fitted for but not with." We are drawing a lot on "fitted for" and "not with" in developing this capability so that we can build something in and retrofit it as the need arises. You cannot retrofit the fuel tanks, the hull form, the flight deck or the propulsion, but there are other things that we will be able to evolve. We are taking a cautious approach to evolving this capability over time. We think that it makes a lot of sense.

Senator Dallaire: Was there a limitation, in regards to size of ship, to the possibility of more amphibious capability in size, including the capability of taking more than the Cyclone? I think that would be the minimum helicopter capability that you should be considering. Were you limited in that, as an example, of being able to take the Chinooks in your SOR?

Commodore Ellis: In the SOR, we did not talk about Chinooks. We talked about it up to the Cormorant helicopter. I am not sure what the Delta would be for Chinooks. If you would like me to get back to you, I can find out how much bigger its flight deck would be. I think it would be a bit bigger and probably a significant cost driver.

Senator Dallaire: That is what I am getting at. I look at your delivery times. We do not have your cash flow, which is classified, probably. It seems extended. I hope this is for eight ships, not for six. I suspect that the capability limitations that were established by the navy with regards to your navy long-range plan did not see something bigger than that for some reason. I am trying to get at that reason. That is, why have you not gone for a bigger capacity, which would have given you a different propulsion capability and which would even have permitted, perhaps, nuclear power and stuff? Who limited you, or what limitations were imposed upon you in your planning of this SOR?

Commodore Ellis: From a limitations perspective, the intent was to service a constabulary armed presence. That is the focus that we had right at the beginning. We must be realistic about the notional resources allocated to this capability and try to deliver the best capability and the best value for Canadians in terms of producing those effects and meeting the most critical requirements, recognizing that, in the longer term, we can grow things in to the ship.

Senator Dallaire: Will they be built in Canada?

Commodore Ellis: They subscribe to the national security ship building policy. They will be built in Canada. We hope that the consultation with industry that the government has undergone in terms of the ship building process will yield results that will help us deliver them faster, as the senator has asked, and give us a sustainable industry.

Capt. Bramwell: There is no intent to keep the cost classified. The definition phase, where we are right now, is about $42.5 million. That is for the next couple of years. That is just to get the design and the request for proposal ready. The ships themselves, along with their integrated logistics package, is about $3.1 billion in budget year terms. There is an associated contract for 25 years of in-service support which is about another $3.2 billion, again in budget-year terms. That is the kind of money we are talking about.

The mandate is for six to eight ships. This is not classified, either. We have already been advising people, including industry, that we believe, with the requirement and the budget that we have, that we are probably looking at six ships.

Senator Dallaire: That would permit only two on station?

Capt. Bramwell: Yes; two in the Arctic.

Senator Dallaire: At a time?

Commodore Ellis: No, sir. When I alluded to two ships at a time that is initially based on 2015 when we will have the two ships there. We think that, with the serviceability, we will be able to get more ships at sea. As technology advances right now, we are finding that the serviceability of ships, the operational output — that is, the time that they can actually spend at sea — is much more than with the older technology. It is more reliable.

The Deputy Chair: Senator Dallaire, we have to continue. Maybe we will have a second round.

Senator Dallaire: If you please, yes.

Senator MacDonald: I have but one question for you, gentlemen. Once these ships are completely built, all of them, and they are fully operational, would the country then be able to meaningfully police the Northwest Passage?

Commodore Ellis: I think so, senator.

Senator MacDonald: When I say "meaningfully police," I mean to what extent are its capabilities in terms of response?

Commodore Ellis: In terms of response?

Senator MacDonald: Well, let us say a rogue ship is going through there.

Commodore Ellis: Yes, absolutely. With the cueing and the sensors that we have, this ship could do something like the interception of what you saw last week on the West Coast, as an example. These are things that happen routinely in all ocean approaches to Canada. They will happen up in the Arctic as the Arctic becomes busier. We have a small crew with the ability to put more people in, to fly in those kinds of emergency response teams that I talked about earlier. We are ensuring that that capability is there.

Senator MacDonald: Little ships make a big difference, then?

Commodore Ellis: Actually, this ship is not that small, senator. It is a reasonable size.

Senator MacDonald: Yes. Thank you.

Senator Hubley: Thank you for your presentation and welcome this evening.

As the new ships come on board, how much training and familiarization will be needed to effectively operate the new naval ships? Will there be extra recruitment for this? In your presentation, you mentioned the rangers when you were talking about the accommodations. Will there be First Nations naval people on these ships?

Commodore Ellis: When I said "rangers," I did not mean rangers as in a crew. I meant that we could work with a ranger patrol. That is, we could embark them and do things with them.

The crewing of the ships is not completely settled yet, but it will be representative of the navy at large. There will be aboriginals there who will be members of the navy. Whether that is regular or reserve force, we have not figured that out yet; we are still working on that. We are working on the crewing concepts, as I said earlier.

We have talked to our Coast Guard friends and deployment in the Arctic during the summer may be something that will prompt us to employ different crewing concepts in terms of morale, for retention and for career development. We are working at that aspect of it now.

As far as training goes, it will be a different platform from the others in the fleet. I am not sure, Captain Bramwell, if there are any technical training aspects that are as a result of the polar class of the platform or not.

Capt. Bramwell: The most significant one would be ice navigation. We have already been consulting with the Coast Guard. There is nothing formal in place but we see a need for their input and for their people on board for the first wave of deployments to the North. The training to be an ice navigator is something very specific. It is something we see that we have to develop in concert with the Coast Guard.

You commented previously about First Nations. On the Nanisivik facility portion of the project, we have already begun discussions with different groups in Nunavut. These have included, for instance, the community of Arctic Bay. The idea, which is still embryonic, has been floated to engage their ranger group in security around the facility. These are exploratory discussions, but they have started.

Senator Hubley: My next question has to do with the medical facility onboard. Is that only for the ship? Do you foresee meeting possible medical emergencies in the North?

Commodore Ellis: The ship is designed with a sick bay like our other ships. It is for self-sustainment and crew. However, having said that, we respond with our regular ships to emergencies routinely, such as search and rescue or evacuations, et cetera. We have flexibility in our ships, even existing ships currently. I am kind of patting us on the back, but the great thing is the navy's flexibility to respond, in my view. We may be loading a helicopter today with blankets and relief supplies, and off we go. We certainly have the means to do that kind of thing.

Do we have a ready backup? Most ships carry a reserve. For example, when the Swiss air flight crashed in 1998 off the coast of Nova Scotia, warships happened to be at sea. They responded and transformed themselves into a morgue and did search and recovery operations. That is the flexibility we tend to provide generally. These ships will be the same.

Senator Patterson: I would like to ask some questions about the port naval facility being planned for Nanisivik that you mentioned. Are you folks also responsible for that facility? How does it relate to this initiative? I think it is primarily intended to support this patrol vessel, if I understand correctly. What is the timing for the facility?

Commodore Ellis: The Nanisivik port facility is part of the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship project. Funding is there. It is associated with delivering this capability. Captain Bramwell is a project manager of the ship part of it. Someone else in ADM(IE)'s world is the project manager for the infrastructure portion of it in Nanisivik.

I happen to be responsible for both of those from a requirements perspective. Both infrastructure and the ship fall into the capability realm. Therefore, I think I can readily answer your question.

The Nanisivik naval facility is primarily to service and act as a logistics hub for the navy to support the Arctic/ Offshore Patrol Ship. It will also support other government departments, including the Coast Guard. We envisage a new tank farm to store fuel for ourselves and the Coast Guard. We have not worked out memoranda of agreement on how that fuel exchange and such things will happen with the Coast Guard. We will do that in the fullness of time.

Currently, we are in the definition phase for the Nanisivik facility. We expect to have a design by the end of 2010. We would then have substantive costs involved to move to the implementation phase of the program. We are now looking at combined office space, accommodations, kitchen, workshop, mechanical room and garage that are approximately 2,000 square metres. The notion is that it is a forward-logistics hub with probably two to four military personnel. It would largely be government-owned and contractor-operated.

Senator Patterson: I believe the first stage of a contract to decommission the existing tank farm has been let. I want to draw to your attention that this is a Government of Canada-initiated venture. You have noted the social and economic development aspects of this project. There is a requirement in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, article 24, that consideration be given to maximizing employment and benefits in contracting this kind of project.

I happened to meet on the weekend with the MLA for the area. I understand that the company which won the bid, unlike two other unsuccessful bidders, did not have any discussions with the community of Arctic Bay about employment and economic opportunities in conjunction with the bid. This will be monitored and, of course, the obligations of the land claim, especially for a shore facility like this. I know Inuit will not necessarily be able to build or design the vessel, but it is extremely important with the shore facility. I am told the community is feeling a bit left out of that first stage.

Commodore Ellis: Thank you, senator, for that feedback. I am a little bit disappointed to hear that. I will follow up with my team.

We were under the impression that the consultative process was quite good. We went through the Nunavut land use processes and consultations. I think that the government-owned, contractor-operated model will have very clear delineations in it regarding local benefits. That is one of the strategic objectives of this capability, after all. I am not sure exactly what contract you are referring to. If you had further details, I could follow that up. I am not clear who you are talking about in terms of the contractor and what that contract was for.

We are still in the definition phase. We are not building, digging or doing anything other than taking soil samples and assessing what remediation needs to be done on the site because of the pollution there at the moment.

Senator Patterson: I can speak to you afterwards about the details I have.

Commodore Ellis: Thank you, sir. I would like to follow that up.

The Deputy Chair: The committee also would like to know about that. We want to know what the Aboriginal people will be doing, if they will be involved, et cetera. It is in their territory.

Commodore Ellis: Yes, madam chair.

The Deputy Chair: We would like to know as well.

Senator Manning: The estimated acquisition cost is $3.1 billion. In your comments you talked about building the new ships to ensure a longer season. However, that would not be equal to other countries, in some cases, that could spend a longer time in the Arctic because we do not have what you would deem to be — and correct me if I am wrong — a full-fledged icebreaker.

Do you have a concern with that in regard to the fact that we have icebreakers per se now, and the new vessels will not have the capability of the ones we already have? Are we stepping back a little bit here?

Capt. Bramwell: The Coast Guard, as you may know, has been approved to build at least one polar icebreaker. In the context of an all-of-government effort, there will be a new heavy icebreaker on the Coast Guard side. That capability is being maintained and enhanced into the future. It just will not be painted grey.

Senator Manning: Will the speed of the new ships in open water be less than conventional patrol ships that we have now?

Commodore Ellis: The speed will be greater than the Kingston class, but it will be less than a frigate or a destroyer.

Senator Manning: When you talked about some sort of compromise on the construction in getting it up to the speed, do you feel comfortable that these new ships will have the speed to be able to do the job you require them to do?

Commodore Ellis: We think they have the speed to do the job we require them to do. As a ship driver, I am always looking for more speed. As an engineer, he is always telling me we cannot have it.

Senator Manning: There is a meeting of the minds here, somewhere.

In the request for proposals, again following your slides, looking at 2010 with a contract hopefully awarded in 2011, in further conversation you mentioned the possibility of six ships versus eight.

We realize that the shipping industry that we have talked about here at the table on several occasions goes through a boom and bust cycle. While there is competition in the market in Canada, there is not a whole lot, in some views. When you say six ships, is there a possibility, or do you think there is enough of a competitive market out there that we could end up with a seventh or eighth ship here? Is that a possibility?

Capt. Bramwell: I do not want to say we live in hope, but we do try to balance being brutally realistic and avoiding being optimistic with having a strong respect for what industry can deliver. If things go well and a series of events like world copper prices, world steel prices and that kind of thing do not go against us, there is an odds-on chance of getting more than six. However, I would not want to make that a statement of fact. It is more a possibility.

Senator Manning: In the request for proposals, I guess it is a package deal. When you ask for ships to be constructed, you will not be asking for one ship at a time. It will be a package deal, I understand, with the first ship to be delivered in 2014 and subsequent years after that until we fulfil what you hope to be six, seven or eight new ships. In the request for proposals — maybe you cannot answer this question — can you give us some explanation of how that goes forward in regard to how many ships? I suppose you really do not know until the proposal comes back, or some type of contracts are completed. How does the request for proposals work? When it goes out, does it ask how many ships can you build for that amount of money, and following these specifications?

Capt. Bramwell: We are targeting, at a minimum, six ships. We expect, all things being equal, to have a contract with some Canadian outfit to produce six ships.

[Translation]

Senator Robichaud: When we talk about ships, we also need to talk about the port facilities you will need. It seems that all we hear about is Nanisivik, which is an abandoned port, and which is slowly being dismantled.

Is Nanisivik the only port we are talking about, or are we looking to find secondary port facilities elsewhere, which would not only be useful to yourself, but would benefit the many communities with fairly large populations?

Commodore Ellis: That is a very good question, senator Robichaud. When we analyzed our options, we discussed a site in the Arctic. The best site was indeed Nanisivik. There are other aspects to the infrastructure which is part of this project, namely to increase the size of the naval dockyards in Halifax and Victoria by adding additional quays to accommodate additional ships.

But for now, we are not looking at a second port in the Arctic. That might come some day, but it would not be in the near future.

Senator Robichaud: Would the port at Nanisivik be used almost exclusively by the navy or by National Defence?

Commodore Ellis: The navy as well as the Coast Guard will be able to use it, that is, federal government ships. That is what we are looking at for now.

Senator Robichaud: You are probably aware that several communities in the Arctic are asking for port facilities to support their economic, fishing or even supply activities. For instance, it is very challenging to supply Iqaluit because of the tides and the lack of port facilities. So are you saying that a port facility in Iqaluit is not being considered at the moment?

Commodore Ellis: Not at the moment. We have analyzed our options and have concluded that Nanisivik is our best bet to create port capacity.

In fact, for reasons which include the tides, the other sites are less ideal, and the existing infrastructure already represents a critical mass.

Senator Robichaud: Well, there is not much there, but perhaps it is more than elsewhere. . .

Commodore Ellis: We will not build any new quays. Rather, we will adapt existing ones. Based on what I know about the current state of the quay, our intention is not to build a brand new one, but rather to upgrade the existing one, and to refurbish it so that it lasts for a reasonable period of time.

But I have to admit that I am not considering building a second or third port for our navy in the Arctic. That might come at some appropriate time, but it would be pure speculation on my part to say that it will happen soon.

Senator Robichaud: Do you have any idea how much it will cost to upgrade the port?

Commodore Ellis: There is $3.1 billion in the project envelope, and $100 million has been earmarked to build capacity in Nanisivik. This includes the quay infrastructure, the building which houses our logistics hub, and the transmission towers that will enable us to communicate with the south, because we will need means of communication.

Senator Robichaud: You talked about armed intervention. How many times has the navy conducted an armed intervention in Canada's domestic waters within the 200-mile limit?

Commodore Ellis: There was a case last week on the west coast, when the Ocean Lady was boarded.

Senator Robichaud: It was not an armed intervention. That ship was carrying people seeking to come to Canada, right? The Coast Guard could have done what you did, isn't that correct?

Commodore Ellis: The Coast Guard would be in a better position to answer that question. I am not familiar with the circumstances. However, if boarding a ship, or conducting an investigation like that one, is involved, or if you need to warn a ship to stop, or fire warning shots, or even use force to stop the ship, you need the means to do so. The organization that has that responsibility and that mandate in Canada is the navy.

Senator Robichaud: Do you think you will need those means? In the past, didn't the Coast Guard, with the RCMP on board, also have the capacity to use force and weapons?

Commodore Ellis: I am not sure at all about that. I know that the Coast Guard and the RCMP work together on the Great Lakes. I also know that we work very closely with the RCMP on a regular basis. In fact, if you remember two or three years ago, the Fredericton made an arrest off the coast of Africa with the RCMP on board, and a huge shipment of drugs was seized. The ship was patrolling fishing activities along the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, but it came back and picked up a team of RCMP officers, because the RCMP has the mandate, and the navy provided armed support.

Senator Robichaud: I understand that you would take this approach on the high seas, but I wonder whether that is appropriate in our domestic waters. I suppose everyone has their own point of view about that.

Commodore Ellis: You are perfectly right, because the RCMP is mainly responsible for our domestic waters, and not the navy. We are there to support other government departments. Within the 12 mile limit, it is the responsibility of the RCMP.

Senator Robichaud: Who is responsible for the waters between the 12-mile and 200-mile limit then?

Commodore Ellis: We are. However, Fisheries and Oceans Canada also has responsibilities. We patrol fishing activities with officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on board, and we do this on a regular basis on the Grand Banks. In fact, in 1989, on George's Bank, we had to use force against an American fishing vessel.

Senator Robichaud: As far as adding new surveillance systems, be they buoys or probes that can communicate via satellite, how does adding ships in the North improve the situation? I understand that we want to be ready if there is a threat, but we have airplanes and all kinds of other ways of responding, do we not?

Commodore Ellis: Yes, we have all kinds of ways of intervening. It all depends on the situation. First, it gives us away of responding before the problem develops on land. Second, it also gives us a presence, and therefore creates a deterrent. It allows us to conduct more direct and mobile surveillance, which will enable us to react more quickly in a sector of interest presenting unusual activity.

The detection systems you are referring to would enable us to investigate any suspicious activity quickly, by sending a plane, for instance, but in some situations it is more appropriate to send in a ship.

Senator Robichaud: You did not mention RADARSAT. Will that be part of your system?

Commodore Ellis: RADARSAT-2, under the Polar Epsilon project, represents a very important capacity for Canada, doubly important, in fact, as far as the North is concerned, because it provides very impressive coverage of the Canadian Arctic. I do not know if you are familiar with the system, but it provides very good coverage at the higher latitudes. It is not as effective in the south because of orbiting satellites. As well, the radar system involved can see a very wide, or more narrow, area at different resolutions.

Senator Robichaud: Even through the clouds, right?

Commodore Ellis: Even through the clouds because we are dealing with radar zones. In fact, I do not know exactly when, but it will be in place soon. There are two stations on the ground which will be directly linked to the marine surveillance operation centre on the east and west coasts. We have access to it right now, but we have to go through Ottawa. I do not know exactly how it works. I have to admit that I am not involved with direct operations.

[English]

The Deputy Chair: This ends our first round of questioning. Senator Dallaire has some more questions. However, I would like to ask one at this time.

The AOPS are interested in taking on some Coast Guard-like duties. Is that correct?

Commodore Ellis: I do not believe that they are intended to take on Coast Guard-like duties. They are really complementary. The concept of operations does not have us doing resupply, or leading merchant ships through ice, or doing safety of navigation. There are some similar things that we would do, for instance, report on the picture, feed into the national maritime picture what we see locally, and again, provide that armed presence and response. I do not think that there is a direct duplication; they are complementary to us. We do work together. For instance, after Hurricane Katrina, it was a navy and Coast Guard group that went down south for relief operations.

The Deputy Chair: I ask you that question because I have a concern. Will the expense of your program threaten future construction budgets for the Coast Guard? That is my concern.

Commodore Ellis: I do not know that I can address that at all. Quite frankly, we have a budget allocation for this program. The decision on how the Coast Guard is funded and its future requirements is, as we would say in the navy, not my part of the ship. I had best not offer you an answer that I would be making up, respectfully, ma'am.

The Deputy Chair: Trust me; we have been in the Arctic. We have been talking to various groups, especially to the Coast Guard. They are underfunded at the present time. That is what we have been hearing. I have a concern, as you can appreciate.

Commodore Ellis: Understood, Madam Chair.

Senator Dallaire: Comparing the Coast Guard's budget envelope and the defence budget envelope are two significantly different exercises. If the Coast Guard does not have a capital program to be able to fund its ships, it is because the Coast Guard has not been able to make its case and/or politically they have decided not to put the money there. I think that is one of the crimes we have in not having funded the Coast Guard. It is rotting away. That has nothing to do with the defence budget, specifically. It is a prioritization of the overall budget allocation.

Did you get a specific additional capital increment for this project? I do not believe it was part of the Navy 2020 long range plan.

Commodore Ellis: Yes, I believe there was an increment. I am not sure whether it was increment-funded internally or externally. I can get back to you on that.

Senator Dallaire: If you would please, comparing it with the original capital program for the navy.

In that light, you have given us the amount of the cash line. It is the annual cash line once the project is approved. Has the project cash line moved to the right because of other budgetary constraints imposed upon National Defence, or is this the fastest cash line usage with anticipated industrial capability of producing these ships?

Capt. Bramwell: The cash line has not been moved due to any lack of funding. It will be there as soon as we can get our request for proposal on the street and our contract ready to be awarded.

Senator Dallaire: You can get Treasury Board approval in about 12 to 14 months from now for this project. Is that correct?

Capt. Bramwell: That is the current schedule.

Senator Dallaire: Has it already been approved within National Defence at the MC level and so on?

Capt. Bramwell: As part of the overall defence services program, the project is in the Canada First defence strategy. The money has already been allocated.

Senator Dallaire: Has it been approved yet within DND?

Capt. Bramwell: It will not be approved for effective project approval until we take the winning bid back to government. That would be in early 2011. At that time, we would expect to get the effective project approval at the same time we get Treasury Board approval.

Senator Dallaire: Regarding the Nanisivik option, in 1987, Perrin Beatty was the Minister of Defence and we had the 1987 White Paper on Defence. We were planning to take over Arctic Bay and build a significant capability there. Is there no port facility at Arctic Bay? Is that not feasible as an operating base where the big mine is?

Commodore Ellis: Arctic Bay is on the other side of the peninsula from Nanisivik. Nanisivik is where the infrastructure is located. The zinc mine is about 40 kilometres away.

Senator Dallaire: This is capability for the next 25 years or 50 years, knowing how we keep equipment. The receding ice line is advancing. You must have assessed that by 2020 or 2025, you will be doing more than four months of patrolling. Ice may then permit you to do nine months. That means everyone else will be able to run around at that time. Was that one metre limitation lined up with ultimately being able to cover the whole of the Northwest Passage at one point in the 12-month period?

Commodore Ellis: I do not think we have that level of prediction for the Northwest Passage open for a 12-month period. We know that because of the rotation of ice in the Arctic, old ice will end up in the Northwest Passage. We focus a lot on the Northwest Passage, but the Arctic sea route and the exclusive economic zone beyond the Canadian archipelago that we are claiming is where a lot of the natural resources are, or are expected to be. As ice opens up, people will want to exploit those. Our focus is not exclusively on the Northwest Passage; it is on the entire environment.

At some time in the future, I think you will have frigates and destroyers going where they can and Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships going where the frigates and destroyers cannot. They will be working together.

Senator Dallaire: And nuclear powered submarines too.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you. This concludes our meeting. I want to thank Commodore Ellis and Captain Bramwell for coming. We appreciate your responses to our questions.

(The committee adjourned.)