The CCGS John G. Diefenbaker National Icebreaker Project

Canada’s new flagship Polar icebreaker will be named after former Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker, one of Canadian history’s great champions of developing and protecting Canada’s North. Once it’s completed in 2017, the polar icebreaker CCGS John G. Diefenbaker will be the largest, most powerful vessel Canada has ever owned.

When announcing the icebreaker in August of 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper invoked the memory of the Rt. Hon. John Diefenbaker, who stood at the same spot to dedicate the newly built town of Inuvik in 1961. Diefenbaker made history when he became the first Canadian Prime Minister to travel north of the Arctic Circle.

“When it launches for the first time into the frigid Canadian waters, the Diefenbaker, as it is almost certain to be nicknamed, will be a crowning achievement for our country,” said Prime Minister Harper.

CCGS John G. Diefenbaker is one of the centerpieces of the Government of Canada’s high profile Northern Strategy, which focuses on strengthening Canada’s Arctic sovereignty, economic and social development, governance, and environmental protection.

The new vessel will be the pride of Canada’s Coast Guard fleet. It will possess greater icebreaking capabilities than any other vessel currently in the Canadian fleet. When completed, this ship will replace CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, which is expected to be decommissioned in 2017.

“We are going to harness the energy and expertise of Government, the Canadian Coast Guard, the Canadian Navy, Canadian shipbuilders and all the communities that support these institutions,” Prime Minister Harper said.

The new icebreaker will provide the Canadian Coast Guard with increased coverage in the Canadian Arctic and adjacent waters and will be able to operate for three seasons in the Arctic, over a larger area and in more difficult ice conditions. By comparison, CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent is able to operate in the Arctic for two seasons.

Designing and building a massive polar icebreaker is a major national project. It is expected to take eight to 10 years to design and build, with a total investment of $720 million. It is expected to enter into full Arctic service in 2017.

The polar icebreaker will be 120-140 metres in length. It will carry a complement of 100 personnel and accommodation for 25 additional people. The polar icebreaker will also be able to accommodate two helicopters when required and has large cargo carrying capacity.

CCGS John G. Diefenbaker will be a Government of Canada asset. It will support the work of several departments and agencies, deliver the full range of Coast Guard programs and establish a strong federal presence in the Arctic.

The Canadian Coast Guard is currently in at the preliminary stages of conceptual design for the polar icebreaker. A “Request for Proposals” to undertake detailed design work will likely be ready mid-2011. Vessel construction is presently scheduled to begin in 2013 with completion of trials and final acceptance anticipated for late 2017.