When it comes to Coast Guard acquisition, the United States and Canada have a lot to talk about. And with officials from the Canadian Coast Guard traveling to U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters and members of the surface program recently visiting Ottawa, Ontario, the conversation is picking up.
In January, Michel Vermette, the Canadian Coast Guard’s deputy commissioner for vessel procurement—the equivalent to the U.S. Coast Guard's Assistant Commandant for Acquisition—visited Washington to brief Deputy Commandant for Mission Support Vice Adm. John Currier, key acquisition personnel, and Dana Goward, the director of marine transportation systems management about the Canadian Coast Guard’s polar icebreaker program. Cmdr. Tim Newton, the assistant project manager for polar capabilities, currently part of In-Service Vessel Sustainment, was one of the acquisition representatives in attendance.
“Mr. Vermette briefed us on the Canadian Coast Guard’s national shipbuilding strategy and specifically the polar icebreaker program,” Newton said. “They announced their polar icebreaker program in 2008. So if you say we started ours this year, they are four years ahead of us. One of our biggest benefits from working with them could be getting our polar icebreaker requirements developed more quickly. We may be able to compress the time it takes to get good requirements if we can incorporate some of the lessons learned from the Canadian Coast Guard.”
On Feb. 29, it was the Acquisition Directorate's turn to visit Canadian Coast Guard headquarters in Ottawa. Surface Program Manager Capt. Lisa Festa, Polar Icebreaker Replacement Interim Project Manager Ken King and Newton made presentations on the Fast Response Cutter, the role of the Project Resident Office, the 225-foot Seagoing Buoy Tender and the U.S. Coast Guard’s surface acquisition portfolio.
In return, the Canadian Coast Guard briefed Festa, King and Newton on their fleet renewal plan and recapitalization projects for a polar icebreaker, the Multi-Tasked Vessel and offshore patrol vessel, as well as Canada’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.
“The Canadian Coast Guard is building the first of their Mid-Shore Patrol Vessels, which is a Damen parent-craft, a similar hull to our FRC,” Newton said. “And as part of their national fleet recapitalization, they are looking at some medium-endurance MTVs, which could look a lot like our 225s. Mr. King, who was actually Capt. King when we finished production of the 225s, was the project manager for those, so he was able to talk about that project.”
Talks in Ottawa concluded with identifying multiple initiatives for further discussion and planning for a potential joint visit to the Canadian Coast Guard’s MSPV production line at Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, Nova Scotia, this spring. An annual summit between the two services is also set for this summer at Victoria, British Columbia.
Collaboration between the two governments began in June 2009, when the U.S. and Canada signed a memorandum of understanding recognizing that both countries had “a common interest in the design and construction techniques of ships” and could mutually benefit from sharing “information on research, design, analysis, development, testing and evaluation of ship design and construction techniques.” The agreement also outlines possible ways the Coast Guards might work together.
King said the visit made clear that the two services can collaborate such that the accomplishments and strengths of each benefit the other.
“The Canadian Coast Guard is well under way on their fleet recapitalization plan, but they have not recently procured vessels like we have,” King said. “I think they can leverage some of the expertise we generated over the last 10 years in the set up of our current acquisition organization. At the same time, they are well ahead of us on the recapitalization of a heavy polar icebreaking capability. We may realize significant benefits, in the future and at the proper point in our major systems acquisition process, if we take advantage of the work they’ve completed.”