Minister of National Defence of Canada announced that Canada has taken an important step toward delivering the RCN’s future fleet, by awarding a performance-based contract to Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards for the full construction of two joint support ships (JSS). Valued at $2.4 billion (including taxes), this contract will allow the transition to full-rate construction of the first ship, the construction of early blocks for which began in June 2018, and then the second ship. The JSS will deliver fuel and other vital supplies to vessels at sea, offer medical and dental services, and provide facilities for helicopter maintenance repair. The presence of replenishment ships increases the range and endurance of operations at sea, allowing Canadian combat ships to remain at sea for significant periods of time without going to shore for resupply.
The Protecteur class (formerly known as the Queenston class) of naval auxiliaries for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) began as the Joint Support Ship Project, a Government of Canada procurement project for the RCN that is part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. It will see the RCN acquire two multi-role vessels to replace the earlier Protecteur-class auxiliary oiler replenishment vessels that were operated by the RCN. The project has suffered from considerable delays. Originally announced in 2004, a contract for the construction of these ships was to have been signed in 2009, which would have seen the first vessel available for operational service in 2012.
The Minister of National Defence announced the JSS has been named Queenston class with two ships named, HMCS Queenston and HMCS Châteauguay. Their namesakes were to be the Battle of Queenston Heights and the Battle of Châteauguay, two battles during the War of 1812. A possible third ship in the class could be built, to be named HMCS Crysler’s Farm, also named after a battle from the War of 1812. The option for the third vessel was dropped due to budget constraints. On 12 September 2017, the Canadian government announced the renaming of the class and vessels, taking the names of the ships of the class that they are to replace. Queenston became Protecteur and Châteauguay became Preserver. According to Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, this was due to the ties both serving and former Navy personnel had with the names.
On 2 June 2013, it was announced that ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems Canada’s Berlin-class replenishment ship was selected as the basis for the design of the Joint Support Ship Project. The Canadian vessels will be a variant of the Berlin class, as the design had to be optimized for Seaspan’s yard in Victoria, British Columbia. The Joint Support Ship Project consists of two multi-role vessels that will replace the former underway replenishment capability of the earlier Protecteur-class auxiliary vessel, as well as provide basic sealift for the Canadian Army, support to forces ashore, and command facilities for a Canadian Forces “joint force” or “naval task group”.