Polar icebreaker overview: Standing Committee on Public Accounts—May 25, 2021

Document navigation for "Standing Committee on Public Accounts: May 25, 2021"

Polar icebreaker


The Government of Canada is committed to the renewal of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) fleet and is making a significant investment in new vessels that will bring a modern, flexible approach to program delivery. This investment includes the construction of 2 new Polar icebreakers to ensure continued delivery of the CCG’s Arctic Program.

Suggested response

If pressed on budget and delivery of the Polar icebreakers:

If pressed on benefits to the Canadian economy:

If pressed on the Davie National Icebreaker Center:

If pressed on procurement practices:


Vancouver Shipyards’ non-combat package is a challenging program of work, which was made even more challenging by the inclusion of the large, one-off Polar icebreaker. In 2019, Canada made the decision to substitute the one Polar icebreaker with a long run of 16 multi-purpose vessels (MPVs). Adding a long production run of up to 16 MPVs will provide Vancouver Shipyards with a longer program horizon than a one-off Polar icebreaker, helping to break the cycle of short production runs and provide an opportunity to generate greater efficiencies.

On February 28, 2020, the Government of Canada issued a RFI, open to all Canadian shipyards, seeking information on domestic shipyard capability and capacity to construct and deliver a Polar-class icebreaker. The RFI closed on March 13, 2020, and PSPC received 4 responses for evaluation.

On June 9, 2020, Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards and Ontario-based Heddle Shipyards announced they will work together if they are awarded the contract to build the Polar icebreaker.

On September 16, 2020, Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards and Newfoundland-based Genoa Design International announced they will work together on 3D modeling and design services if they are awarded the contract to build the Polar icebreaker.

In November 2020, Davie announced that they were partnering with Vard Marine Inc. and Serco Canada Marine in their bid to build the Polar icebreaker, which they had launched earlier in August 2020 at the same time as their National Icebreaker Centre.

On February 2, 2021, Chantier Davie announced that it was welcoming GE as a strategic partner in its Polar Icebreaker Program.

On May 6, 2021, the Government of Canada announced that it will move forward with the construction of 2 new Polar icebreakers as part of the NSS. The engineering and construction of 1 Polar icebreaker will be directed to Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards, and engineering and construction of the other Polar icebreaker will be directed to Chantier Davie, pending the successful completion of the ongoing selection process as the third strategic partner for large ships under the NSS.

Chantier Davie has pre-qualified as part of the process to select a third shipyard under the NSS to build 6 program icebreakers for the CCG. This process was overseen by an independent fairness monitor. The yard is now going through the next steps which will include a third-party assessment of the shipyard’s infrastructure, submission of a formal proposal, and a due diligence process to ensure the shipyard is financially capable of performing the work and making any necessary upgrades to its infrastructure.

Government of Canada announces Polar Icebreakers to enhance Canada’s Arctic presence and provide critical services to Canadians

News release

May 6, 2021

Ottawa, ON—Canada has 3 oceans and the longest coastline in the world. Our nation’s blue economy depends on a strong Coast Guard fleet to keep mariners safe, protect our coasts and waterways, and deliver commercial goods and other vital services to Canadians.

The recent growth in commercial shipping, the serious impacts of climate change, and increased maritime activity in the Arctic have all highlighted Canada’s need for a renewed Coast Guard fleet.

Today the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, joined by the Quebec Lieutenant and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced the Government of Canada will move forward with the construction of 2 Polar icebreakers under the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

Both new Polar icebreakers will have capacity and ability beyond that of Canada’s current largest icebreaker, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, and will both be built by Canadian shipyards. Early estimates are that the construction of these ships will generate approximately 300 jobs per vessel at the shipyards, and 2,500 jobs across the marine supply chain. The construction of these new ships is in addition to the $17.49 billion in contracts already awarded to shipyards large and small across Canada under the NSS that have resulted in the revitalization of Canada’s shipbuilding industry, and the creation of thousands of jobs already.

Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver, British Columbia, which has proven its shipbuilding capability with the completion of the first class of large vessels under the NSS, will build one of the Polar icebreakers. The other Polar icebreaker will be built by Davie Shipbuilding of Lévis, Quebec, pending the successful completion of the ongoing selection process as the third strategic partner for large ships construction under the NSS. Both shipyards are expected to be supported by many small and medium-sized Canadian businesses across the country, ensuring that the construction of these ships will be a historic, cross-country effort to help drive Canada’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

This procurement approach will ensure at least 1 polar icebreaker is delivered by 2030 when the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent is expected to retire from service. Precise timing of icebreaker delivery will be determined once shipyard agreements are in place.

With their enhanced capabilities, these larger, more powerful Polar icebreakers will enable the Coast Guard to conduct year-round operations in Canada’s Arctic. Their greater endurance will ensure they can operate at higher latitudes for longer periods, and will allow the fleet to better support Indigenous Peoples and northerners, strengthen Arctic sovereignty, advance high Arctic science, and better respond to maritime emergencies. 

Today’s announcement represents a large step forward in ensuring the Canadian Coast Guard has the equipment it needs. It will also have a lasting impact on Canadian marine industry, its workers and their suppliers. Through their construction and service, the Polar icebreakers will contribute to growing Canada’s blue economy and create more opportunities in our coastal communities. They will strengthen our Coast Guard for the long-term, and ensure that maritime services and science platforms are available year-round in Arctic waters.


“The new Polar icebreakers will be a game-changer for Canada’s marine industry–both in their construction and the difference that a stronger presence in the Arctic will make. Built by Canadian shipyards, these vessels will enable the coast guard to conduct critical science, supply and other missions in our Arctic region year-round. Under the National Ship Building Strategy, we’re putting thousands of Canadians to work building a fleet that will serve those communities for decades.”

The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“We are positioning Canada for the future by making investments today to build a more competitive economy. This includes investments to support the domestic construction of 2 new Polar icebreakers. The Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy will apply to these investments to strengthen Canada‘s shipbuilding industry and create good quality jobs for Canadians across the country.”

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

“The know-how and expertise of shipyard workers in the Quebec City area is well established. By planning the order for a polar icebreaker, we confirm our confidence in them and support hundreds of jobs on site and throughout the supply chain in our regions. We are here to support the economic recovery and create good jobs for families in the national capital, in the Chaudière-Appalaches region, and in all regions of Quebec.“

The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Quebec Lieutenant and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

“This is a good day for North Vancouver, for Vancouver, for British Columbia and it’s a good day for Canada. Two Polar icebreakers will give Canada a year-round presence in the Arctic to help protect mariners, safeguard our marine environments, ensure the safe and efficient movement of ships, and protect our borders. At the same time, we are continuing to build a thriving domestic shipbuilding industry, creating thousands of jobs and generating economic growth and prosperity in communities across British Columbia and Canada.”

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“Today’s announcement is a further demonstration of the National Shipbuilding Strategy’s success in bringing together the Canadian marine industry to strengthen and renew our federal fleets. We are honoured to continue to support the delivery of modern, safe and effective vessels to members of the Canadian Coast Guard, which also creates jobs and supports our country’s shipbuilding industry. Thanks to the NSS, these ships will be built at home and support our communities from coast to coast to coast.”

The Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement

“This National Shipbuilding Strategy major investment marks an important step in renewing the Coast Guard’s fleet, and equipping our members with modern, safe and reliable ships so they can continue delivering critical services from coast to coast to coast. We look forward to the addition of 2 new Polar icebreakers to our fleet, which will extend the Coast Guard’s on-water Arctic operations all year long.”

Mario Pelletier, Commissioner for the Canadian Coast Guard 

Quick facts

Related products

Associated links


Jane Deeks
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Polar icebreakers and the National Shipbuilding Strategy


The Arctic region’s remoteness and extreme weather conditions present significant challenges to carrying out Coast Guard operations year-round. The acquisition of 2 new Polar icebreakers will enable the Coast Guard to operate in the Canadian Arctic throughout the year to fulfill Government of Canada missions in support of Indigenous Peoples and other northerners, Arctic sovereignty and security, high Arctic research, and to help respond to emergency situations.

These new Polar icebreakers will be the largest ships in the Coast Guard fleet, with each ship having the following expected specifications:

These first of their class Polar icebreakers will be larger and more powerful than the Coast Guard’s current heavy icebreakers, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and CCGS Terry Fox. The increased power and endurance of these ships will allow them to operate in more challenging ice conditions at higher latitudes in Canada’s Arctic where the Coast Guard cannot regularly operate. The new ships will have a longer operational range meaning they can remain in the Arctic for a longer period of time. In addition, these new vessels will have enhanced capabilities for science, including laboratories, moon pools, and the ability to sample ocean and ice throughout the full year. The ships will also come equipped with multi-purpose spaces to allow the Coast Guard to undertake a variety of mission types.

In addition to the technological advantages provided by these new ships, having 2 in operation will allow the Coast Guard to maintain a year round presence in the Arctic.

Having Polar icebreakers dedicated to the Arctic, as well as new program icebreakers to replace the aging icebreaking fleet, will increase the Coast Guard’s overall capabilities for icebreaking in both northern and southern Canada and will provide more flexibility to respond to increased demands for icebreaking services in more challenging ice years and the shoulder seasons.

The 2 Polar icebreakers are being built under the Government of Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy and in accordance with the Canadian Coast Guard’s fleet renewal plan. At least 1 Polar icebreaker is expected to be in service by 2030.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy: Creating jobs for Canadians

The National Shipbuilding Strategy is reinvigorating Canada’s shipbuilding industry and marine sector and generating jobs and economic benefits for Canadians while providing Coast Guard members with the equipment they need to continue their important work.

Early estimates are that the construction of these ships will generate approximately 300 jobs per vessel at the shipyards, and 2,500 jobs across the marine supply chain.

To date, more than 20 vessels have been delivered to the Coast Guard under the National Shipbuilding Strategy, with more to come. Those delivered to date include:

These small vessels can provide search and rescue services including performing searches on the water, as well as providing assistance to disabled vessels and support aid to navigation programs.

Document navigation for "Standing Committee on Public Accounts: May 25, 2021"

Date modified: