CCGS John G. Diefenbaker

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CCGS John G. Diefenbaker conceptual rendering.jpg
Conceptual rendering of CCGS John G. Diefenbaker released by the Canadian Coast Guard.
NameJohn G. Diefenbaker
NamesakeJohn G. Diefenbaker + one other
OwnerGovernment of Canada
OperatorCanadian Coast Guard
BuilderSeaspan Shipyards and another NSS Shipyard (potentially Davie)
CostC$7.25 billion (2021 Parliamentary Budget Office estimate for two vessels)[1]
Yard number198 (Seaspan)
In serviceBy 2030 for the first vessel
General characteristics (preliminary)[2]
Displacement23,500 t (23,100 long tons)
Length150.1 m (492 ft 5 in)
Beam28 m (91 ft 10 in)
Draught10.5 m (34 ft 5 in)
Depth13.5 m (44 ft 3 in)
Ice classPolar Class 2 Icebreaker(+)[3]
Installed powerSix diesel engines, 39,600 kW (53,100 hp) (combined)
PropulsionDiesel-electric; two 11 MW (14,800 hp) shafts and one 12 MW (16,100 hp) azimuth thruster
  • 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) (max)
  • 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) (cruise)
  • 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph) (ice)
RangeOver 26,200 nmi (48,500 km; 30,200 mi) in Sea State 3
  • 25 days (full power)
  • 270 days (logistical)
  • 60 (core crew)
  • 40 (program personnel)
Aircraft carried2 × medium-lift helicopters
Aviation facilitiesHelipad and hangar

Project overview[edit]

CCGS John G. Diefenbaker is the name for a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker that had been expected to join the fleet by 2017 but has been significantly delayed.[4] Her namesake, John G. Diefenbaker, was Canada's 13th prime minister. It was Diefenbaker's government that founded the Canadian Coast Guard in 1962.

The ship was initially to have been constructed by Seaspan as part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. However, by 2020, both the timing and location of this build had become uncertain. In February 2020, the federal government initiated a request to all interested Canadian shipyards to outline their capacity to potentially construct John G. Diefenbaker with the objective of securing service entry by December 2029.[5]

In May 2021, the government announced that two ships of a single class would now be constructed,[6] one at Seaspan's Vancouver Shipyard in British Columbia and the other at the Davie yard in Quebec, "pending the successful completion of the ongoing selection process as the third strategic partner for large ships construction under the National Shipbuilding Strategy". As of the end of 2021, further progress on the conclusion of the umbrella agreement had not yet been reported.

The revised service entry date for the first vessel was projected as 2030. The budget for this expanded program was unknown.[6] In late 2021, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated the cost for two ships at $7.25 billion.[1]

Project history[edit]

On 27 February 2008, the Government of Canada announced plans for a "Polar Class Icebreaker Project" as part of Canada's National Shipbuilding Strategy. At the time, the vessel's commissioned name was announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a visit to Inuvik, Northwest Territories on 28 August 2008. The project was initially had an estimated budget of C$720 million to replace the nation's largest icebreaker and the flagship of the Canadian Coast Guard, CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.[7][8][9][10]

The Minister of Defence Peter MacKay stated that the icebreaker will be built in Canada.[11] As of the award of the NSPS contracts, John G. Diefenbaker will be built by Seaspan in British Columbia. Former Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Loyola Hearn announced the icebreaker will be homeported in his riding of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. He also stated that the vessel will be larger than Louis S. St-Laurent which she will be replacing.[12]

In October 2012, a 1:25 scale model of John G. Diefenbaker was being evaluated in at the National Research Council's Institute for Ocean Technology in St. John's.[13] Additional testing was carried out at Aker Arctic's ice tank in Finland.[2]

The Canadian Coast Guard announced on 28 April 2010 that it was then "at the preliminary stages of conceptual design for the polar icebreaker. A "Request for Proposals" to undertake detailed design work was to have been ready mid-2011 with vessel construction to begin in 2013. [14] However, continuous scheduling delays on other projects at the Seaspan yard, as well as budgetary increases, resulted in the reallocation of the planned icebreaker to another yard in 2019.

In early February 2012, STX Canada Marine (now Vard Marine Inc) was awarded the contract to design the new icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. Although the majority of the design work was conducted in Vancouver, British Columbia by STX Canada, the design team also included the Finnish engineering company Aker Arctic.[15] The work was initially planned to be complete by the end of 2013.

In May 2013 the Vancouver Sun reported that the Harper government acknowledged that both John G. Diefenbaker and the Royal Canadian Navy's new Joint Support Ships faced a scheduling conflict.[16] According to the Vancouver Sun, because both vessels were scheduled to be built in the same facility, the Harper government would have to choose which project had priority, and went first. The Canadian American Strategic Review argued that John G. Diefenbaker better served protecting Canadian sovereignty than the Joint Support Ships, and should therefore get built first.[17] However, on 11 October 2013 the NSPS Secretariat announced that the Joint Support Ships would be built first, followed by John G. Diefenbaker. This delay, coupled with the later decision to re-open the issue of where the Diefenbaker was to be constructed, required the government to try to keep the old icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent in service through the 2020s. Refits were planned for that ship to take place at the Davie Shipyard over three 5-month dry-docking periods in 2022, 2024 and 2027 respectively, with an alongside work period in 2023.[18]

In November 2013, it was reported that the budget for John G. Diefenbaker was revised up to 1.3 billion Canadian dollars, almost twice the initial estimate.[19] Melanie Carkner of the Canadian Coast Guard stated that part of the price increase was to cover future requirements for the ship.[20]

In November 2016, the Government of Canada announced a solicitation/request for proposals for the leasing of interim icebreakers under a fast track procurement process to fill the gap until and after John G. Diefenbaker reaches full operational capability. Chantier Davie Canada has proposed converting four existing icebreaking offshore vessels for this purpose: the US-flagged Aiviq and the Swedish Tor Viking II, Vidar Viking and Balder Viking.[21]

Originally the ship was allocated to be built by Seaspan at their Vancouver Shipyard facility, in British Columbia after the company completed work on the Joint Support Ship project. However, the latter project was significantly delayed and in 2019 the Government of Canada announced a decision to remove the Polar Icebreaker from Seaspan’s portfolio of work and an announcement to build up to sixteen Multi Purpose Vessels. Following a Government review, in 2021, that decision was reversed and the Government announced that two Polar Icebreaker's would be built, one at Seaspan and one at a third NSS Shipyard, yet to be named. The second ship is planned to be built at the Davie Yard in Quebec, pending the successful conclusion of an umbrella agreement between the Government of Canada and Davie.

Michael Byers, the Canada Research chair in global politics and international law at the University of British Columbia, stated that "this icebreaker and new money for mapping is something that Arctic experts like myself have been calling for, for some years now. I hope it's real. I hope it's not just an election promise.[9] We need it and we need it right now. But I'm still somewhat skeptical. This has been done before for cynical electoral politics."[22]


General characteristics[edit]

John G. Diefenbaker will have an overall length of 150.1 metres (492 ft 5 in) and beam of 28.0 metres (91 ft 10 in). Drawing 10.5 metres (34 ft 5 in) of water, the icebreaker has a displacement of 23,500 tonnes. She is projected to have a core crew of 60 and accommodation for additional 40 project personnel. Her facilities include laboratories and modular mission spaces, a moon pool, general purpose cargo hold and garage, multiple cranes and a helideck and hangar for two medium-lift helicopters. In addition, she is capable of receiving and refueling larger helicopters.[23]

If built, this class of ship will eventually have a complement of 100 per vessel. They are estimated to be capable of carrying fuel and supplies to be self-sufficient for 270 days and be capable of making constant progress through 2.5 metres (8 ft) of ice.[24]

John G. Diefenbaker will be classified by Lloyd's Register of Shipping. Her ice class is Polar Class 2, the second highest ice class according to the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) Unified Requirements for Polar Class Ships. Furthermore, the class notation Icebreaker(+) will result in additional structural strengthening based on analysis of the vessel's operational profile potential ice loading scenarios.[2] John G. Diefenbaker is one of the first vessels to hold this class notation.[3]

Power and propulsion[edit]

John G. Diefenbaker will be fitted with a fully integrated diesel-electric propulsion system consisting of six diesel generating sets with a combined output of 39,600 kW (53,104 hp). The power plant, divided into two separate engine rooms, provides power for all shipboard consumers from propulsion motors to lighting in the accommodation spaces.[2]

Initially, two propulsion alternatives were proposed during the preliminary design: a traditional three-shaft configuration with a centerline rudder and a hybrid propulsion system consisting of two wing shafts and an azimuth thruster in the middle for improved maneuverability. Of these, the Canadian Coast Guard selected the latter with two 11 MW (14,800 hp) wing shafts and a 12 MW (16,100 hp) azimuth thruster.[2][25] The combined shaft power, 34 MW (45,600 hp), is almost the same as that of the Russian nuclear-powered icebreakers Taymyr and Vaygach. This makes John G. Diefenbaker the most powerful diesel-electric icebreaker in the world and the third most powerful non-nuclear icebreaker after the two gas turbine-powered Polar-class icebreakers operated by the United States Coast Guard.[23] The icebreaker is also fitted with an air bubbling system that provides hull lubrication and reduces ice friction during icebreaking operations.[2]

For maneuvering at ports as well as stationkeeping capability in Sea State 5 and currents of up to 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph) in open water, she will also be fitted with two 1,900 kW (2,548 hp) bow thrusters.[2]


John G. Diefenbaker is designed to break level ice with a thickness of 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) and with a 30-centimetre (12 in) snow cover at over 3 knots. In terms of icebreaking capability, this ranks her just below the largest Russian nuclear-powered icebreakers. Her operational range at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) in Sea State 3 is projected to be over 26,200 nautical miles (48,500 km; 30,200 mi) and she can operate in 2.2-metre (7.2 ft) ice at full power for 25 days. The logistical endurance of the vessel will be 270 days.[23] The new icebreaker will be able to achieve a maximum speed of about 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) in open water, but her normal cruising speed is around 12 knots.


  1. ^ a b Penney, Christopher; Elmarzougui, Eskandar (16 December 2021). "The Polar Icebreaker Project: A Fiscal Analysis". Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Newbury, Scott; McGreer, Dan (October 2014). "Vessel report: Polar icebreaker" (PDF). Marine Technology. pp. 68–71. Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b "LR to class versatile icebreaker for Canadian Coast Guard". Lloyd's Register. 29 April 2015. Archived from the original on 1 May 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  4. ^ "Arctic icebreaker delayed as Tories prioritize supply ships". CBC News. The Canadian Press. 11 October 2013. Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  5. ^ Berthiaume, Lee (29 February 2020). "Federal government soliciting pitches from Canadian shipyards to build new icebreaker". CTV News Vancouver Island. The Canadian Press. Archived from the original on 10 March 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  6. ^ a b "Polar icebreakers and the National Shipbuilding Strategy" (Press release). Government of Canada. 6 May 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  7. ^ "Arctic icebreaker, fishing port, tax break a start: northerners". CBC News. 27 February 2008. Archived from the original on 1 March 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  8. ^ Windeyer, Chris (29 February 2008). "Feds to replace old icebreaker". Nunatsiaq News. Archived from the original on 3 March 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2021. Ottawa will put aside $720 million this year to commission the icebreaker, which the government says will have better ice breaking capability than the Louis St. Laurent, considered the workhorse of the Coast Guard.
  9. ^ a b Berthiaume, Lee (27 February 2008). "Icebreaker Replacement Deadline Looms: Despite $720 million in yesterday's federal budget, procurement for a new polar icebreaker will take eight to 10 years". Embassy, Canada's Foreign Policy Newsletter. Archived from the original on 12 February 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2008. Despite setting aside $720 million in yesterday's budget to purchase a new polar class icebreaker, the government will be cutting things close if it wants to decommission the ageing Louis St. Laurent heavy icebreaker as scheduled by 2017, according to Canadian Coast Guard commissioner George Da Pont.
  10. ^ Thomas, Brodie (3 March 2008). "Reaction mixed on fed's budget". Northern News Services. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  11. ^ Maher, Stephen (28 February 2008). "Little news not good news for region: $720 million allocated to replace coast guard icebreaker". Halifax Chronicle Herald. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2008.
  12. ^ Mullowney, Tara (4 March 2008). "Feds fall short". Southern Gazette. Archived from the original on 1 January 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2021. ...and $720 million in funding for the Coast Guard will translate into a polar class ice-breaker that will be based in Newfoundland..."This is a bigger boat, so you can add to that."
  13. ^ "New polar vessel breaks the ice, on a small scale". CBC News. 24 October 2012. Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  14. ^ "The CCGS John G. Diefenbaker National Icebreaker Project". Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Archived from the original on 16 October 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  15. ^ "Aker Arctic helps design new Canadian icebreaker". Good News Finland. 29 February 2012. Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  16. ^ Berthiaume, Lee (7 May 2013). "Feds face tough choice as naval resupply ships, icebreaker on collision course at Vancouver shipyard". Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on 13 May 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2021. This scheduling conflict was acknowledged in a recent Defence Department report tabled in Parliament, which noted that "the Joint Support Ship and the Polar Icebreaker are progressing on a very similar schedule such that they both could be ready for construction at the same time."
  17. ^ Priestley, Stephen (May 2013). "What are the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy Priorities? Scheduling Conflicts force a choice between JSS & Polar Icebreaker". Canadian American Strategic Review. Archived from the original on 19 May 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2021. There is no question that the JSS Project has become a major embarrassment [sic] for the Harper government. But this shouldn't be a decision based on political considerations. The only question that matters is which ship class adds the most to assuring Canadian sovereignty. Without JSS, the RCN loses much of its capacity to project Canadian military power abroad. Without heavy icebreakers, Canada will lose much of its ability to establish a 'presence' in the High Arctic (as well as needed infrastructure support in the south during winter).
  18. ^ Hakirevic, Naida (4 November 2020). "Canada's largest icebreaker to undergo life extension upgrade". Archived from the original on 5 November 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  19. ^ Berthiaume, Lee (13 November 2013). "Coast guard's new icebreaker to cost twice as much as originally estimated". Calgary Herald. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  20. ^ Pugliese, David (13 November 2013). "Cost Of New Coast Guard Icebreaker Almost Doubles". Ottawa Citizen. Postmedia Network Inc. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
  21. ^ "Project Resolute" (PDF). Chantier Davie Canada. April 2017. Archived from the original on 21 January 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  22. ^ "Budget's "anywhere, any time" icebreaker welcomed, if it gets built: experts". The Canadian Press. 29 February 2008. Retrieved 4 March 2008.[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ a b c McGreer, Dan (2013). "Design of the CCG Polar Icebreaker" (PDF). STX Canada Marine. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 January 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  24. ^ Pugliese, David (8 February 2012). "Polar Icebreaker Design Launched With Awarding of Contract to STX Canada". Ottawa Citizen.
  25. ^ "Canadian Polar icebreaker reaches phase III" (PDF). Arctic Passion News. Aker Arctic Technology Inc. January 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2018.

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