OTTAWA --- The Canadian government has increased the price tag of building two auxiliary ships under Joint Support Ship program from CAD2.3 billion to CAD3.4 billion. The CAD1.1 billion increase comes as no surprise, as the government itself had said that the CAD2.3 billion estimate was an outdated figure that would be updated.
As far back as December 2013, a report from the Parliamentary Budget Office estimated that building the two ships would actually cost closer to CAD3.2 billion due to Vancouver Shipyards' lack of experience building large military ships. It seems that estimate was not far off the mark, assuming the program can remain within the revised cost parameters. However, the PBO analysis also added a contingency cushion of CAD900 million, which would have brought the total program cost to CAD4.1 billion. It is unclear if such a contingency is built into the revised budget.
The two Joint Support Ships, based on the Berlin class replenishment ship, are replacing the HMCS Preserver and HMCS Protecteur, both of which are no longer operational. Both of those ships were removed from service in 2014, leaving the Navy with no way to resupply its fleet. To help fill the gap, Canada relied on short-term logistics agreements to utilize ships from Chile and Spain.
Canada also began seeking options for an interim supply ship in December 2014, ultimately opting for a sole-source deal with Chantier Davie Canada to convert the container ship Asterix, which was built in 2010. Asterix is being leased, but the Navy has the option to purchase the ship. The modified ship was delivered in December 2017, and will alternate operations between the east and west coasts. Davie has pushed for the Navy to convert a second interim ship, but the Liberal government has rejected this plan. Asterix will be used until the arrival of the second JSS.
Delivery of the first ship is expected in 2022 or 2023, with construction expected to begin this summer.