Conservatives going ahead with new supply ships, delaying planned icebreakers

GATINEAU, Que. – The Harper government has decided to proceed with the construction of the navy’s long-delayed supply ships ahead of building a new heavy icebreaker.

But a senior military official says the existing replenishment ships will be retired before the new ones arrive, hopefully by the end of the decade.

The navy will have to rely on other allies to replenish Canadian warships during the gap, which it estimates will be about 18 months.

The federal government’s shipbuilding strategy dictates that non-combat ships be built at Seaspan in Vancouver, but the shipyard can handle only one project at the time.

The decision means the coast guard will have to keep the heavy icebreaker Louis St. Laurent in service until 2021, but it will cost the federal government $55 million in refit and upgrade costs over 10 years.

A coast guard official says the ship, launched in 1969, is in good shape and has been well maintained over the years.

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