Joint Support Ships Collaboration?
ANDREW WARDEN
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Jul 15, 2010

Canada’s recent announcement to restart the stalled Joint Support Ship (JSS) project has been heralded by the Navy and industry alike. It brings new hope to a project that has been on a roller coaster ride since first announced by the Martin government in 2004.

After a multitude of delays and modifications, the recently announced JSS is not the robust vessel described in the 2004/2006 RFP, but nevertheless will fill the underway replenishment capabilities required to maintain a Canadian Task Group.

Perhaps one of the most troubling parts of the 2010 announcement is that the Government of Canada only intends to acquire two ships, with the option for a third if the price is right. This decision could leave the Navy, which is responsible for patrolling the coasts of three oceans, in a difficult position – with only two ships at its disposal, there is only a 70% probability that at least one of the ships would be available for high priority government tasking.
 
One solution to driving down cost (and thus be able to acquire the third ship, which would provide over a 90% availability of at least one ship), would be to engage the broader marine industry in the design and construction process.

At the moment, however, the government seems only ready to involve a ship designer and a shipbuilder.
 
Currently, the JSS program is in a design analysis phase. Throughout this phase, the Government will be identifying and analyzing off-the-shelf designs from ships already in service, as well as producing an in-house design. The end goal is to generate several design options, allowing the government to make the most cost-effective choice.
 
The Government could take it a step further and engage the broader maritime sector industry in the design process.

By looking at the many difficulties facing the project, the Navy League of Canada believes it is more important than ever to ensure that the Government is taking the right approach and is able to move forward in a timely manner.
 
Factors for Success
Three very important factors for success will enable the Navy to get the right ships for the right price, enabling the Government to afford that third vessel.
 
The acquisition of a third ship is a very important consideration that the Navy League recommends should not be overlooked.
 
The Government has just released the Statement of Requirement (SOR); it is much different from the previous one but still raises questions of doability, about which industrial input could be invaluable.
 
To ensure success, the SOR should be focussed on essential and desired operational capabilities, yet it currently reflects not only capabilities but also some specific solutions.
 
Industry experts are concerned that some of the capabilities/solutions identified in the SOR might be unnecessary cost drivers – a dialogue with industry could help clarify where these may be.
 
This collaborative approach, coupled with the implementation of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy should create a dynamic environment aimed at finding solutions to the Navy’s problems.
 
The Government has chosen to rely mainly on European designs already in service, however, the Navy League would encourage Government to consider a dialogue with the Canadian marine industry to ensure that, where feasible, there can be an optimization of Canadian and North American supply chains to facilitate equipment availability and long term North American support.
 
Canadian content should not be limited to the shipyards, but in fact should include the entire industry – such as ship designers, major equipment suppliers, and systems integration teams – in order to improve optimization through life cost savings and ease of support.
 
Engaging Canadian industry players could ensure maximum benefits right here at home by generating even more options for the Government to choose from, therefore fulfilling their desire to get best value for money.
 
One of the best ways that we could ensure the acquisition of a third vessel, and therefore give the Navy greater flexibility, is by giving the Government as many design options to choose from as possible. Probably, only through industry innovation will the cost drop enough that the acquisition of a third vessel would be possible.
 
One requirement in the previous JSS project that we hear may be cut from the new project is the ability of the vessels to travel to the High Arctic under certain ice conditions. The new JSS vessels are intended to be doubled-hulled, therefore complying with the Arctic Shipping Pollution Prevention Regulations (ASPPR), but only to level E (which is the lowest), and thus could limit the JSS to mid-summer to early fall brash ice conditions. With the increasing interest in the Arctic, and Canada’s desire to enhance its Arctic Sovereignty, one would expect that any new requirements for the JSS should include the ability to reach northern settlements more than just a few months a year.
 
Many of the problems currently facing the JSS could be remedied by searching out innovative ways to meet the requirements, but this requires a real and open dialogue between Government and industry.
 
It is important that the Government, and the Navy, fully understand where there are significant cost drivers. Such a dialogue will help provide a better and more cost effective solution for the Navy. By doing this, they can drive down the cost, gain capabilities, and provide more flexibility to the Navy for completion of its missions.
 
The Government needs to encourage industry come up with cost effective solutions. Only through the sharing of ideas can there be true innovation that can ensure that the Navy and the Canadian public truly get the right ships with value for money.
 
 
November 2009 – USNS Tippecanoe performs an RAS (Replenishment at Sea) with HMCS Fredericton. An RAS involves warships and supply vessels sailing in very close proximity, normally between 30 and 40 metres, connected by a high tensioned steel wire rope or synthetic line called a jackstay. The jackstay is used to support fuel hoses, supplies, ammunition for the transfer from one ship to another. Fredericton was deployed on a six-month mission to the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa to conduct counter-piracy and counter terror operations alongside our NATO and Coalition partners.
 
If the Government of Canada is truly committed to getting the right equipment for the Canadian Forces, at the right price for taxpayers, with the right benefits for Canadians and the industry employers, they will allow industry to prove its genius and participate in the solutions to allow for potentially a more capable JSS – and hopefully for a third vessel.
 
 
HMCS Protecteur is one of Canada’s two supply ships. These ships replenish Task Groups at sea with food, munitions, fuel, spare parts and other supplies. The also have large medical and dental facilities. With their large capacity and extended range, Task Groups can stay at sea longer and travel farther.
 
The Government has taken a major step with its announcement of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. The Navy League of Canada believes that engaging the broader marine industry will assist in procuring the most and best ships that Canada can afford, and that can be built in Canada.
 
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Andrew Warden, Maritime Affairs, Navy League of Canada.
© FrontLine Defence 2010

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