Managing one of Canada’s largest shipbuilding contracts

Under the Arctic and offshore patrol ships (AOPS) project, 6 ships are being built for the Royal Canadian Navy. This project is part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS). Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is helping by establishing and managing the contract for the construction of these new patrol ships. Behind the scenes, a small team of people from PSPC is ensuring that the terms of the contract are respected.

Front part of a ship under construction under suspended cranes

Paul Bowman, the AOPS supply manager for the past year, has been with PSPC since 2008 and part of the AOPS project for 3 years. Although his duties and responsibilities are similar to those of many managers, his work environment and the scope and scale of the project make Paul’s workday anything but ordinary.

His current office is located inside Irving Shipbuilding Inc.’s shipyard in Halifax, Nova Scotia. From there, he oversees PSPC’s work on this important indoor construction project to build the Harry DeWolf-class patrol ships. “I essentially supervise a team responsible for managing various aspects of the contract, like acceptance and delivery of ships, warranty, inspections, tests and design verification. It’s a broad area of responsibilities,” he says.

Paul also does a lot of fieldwork. He visits the ships under construction to validate that the work is in accordance with the contract. Once the work is validated, he certifies that it is done.

Like building a giant Lego structure

The contract’s scale and complexity make this an interesting and challenging procurement because of the huge task of building 6 ships and the unique nature of the vessels required by the Royal Canadian Navy. “We’re talking about ships that take an enormous effort to build: each ship is made up of 440,000 parts and weighs 6,600 tonnes, larger than anything delivered to the navy in 50 years.”

In the shipyard, cranes on tracks and wheels tower overhead with a capacity of 200 tonnes. Since staff offices are inside the shipyard, Paul notes that he can feel the cranes when they are in operation. “You can feel the conference room shudder and vibrate every time the cranes are rolling along. There’s nowhere else in Canada, that I’m aware of, where you can experience the indoor construction of something this big and complex.”

Interestingly, the construction team starts by building the modules, which ultimately form the ship, from top to bottom and upside down. “It’s easier for the workers to assemble parts that are on the ceiling first and then turn them over and start working on the larger modules.”

There are 3 facilities in Nova Scotia that build parts for the ships: 2 are located in Dartmouth and the main assembly hall is in Halifax. “It’s like building with Lego,” says Paul. “The smaller pieces go along the assembly line until they become 3 huge blocks that are then taken outside and joined together. The completed ship is then placed on to a barge and lowered to allow the AOPS to slip out on the water.”

Front view of a military ship on supports

So far, 3 ships have been delivered that, in total, took over a million working hours to build. The Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf, the first large vessel completed under the NSS, was delivered to the Royal Canadian Navy on July 31, 2020. The HMCS Margaret Brooke was delivered on July 15, 2021, and the HMCS Max Bernays on September 2, 2022.

To learn more about the Harry DeWolf-class patrol ships, visit the Arctic and offshore patrol ships. You can also find out about the benefits of the project for the marine industry by taking a look at the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

Consult Our stories to discover more articles about PSPC people and projects making a difference in the lives of Canadians.

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