David Pugliese’s Defence Watch


Ottawa Citizen

A design contract for the Canadian Forces Nanisivik Naval Facility in Nunavut has now been awarded to a civilian firm but the date that actual construction work on the facility is to begin has already fallen behind from the planned schedule and there could be further delays, Defence Watch has been told.

On Thursday the Defence Department announced that the initial design phase contract has been awarded to a British Columbia firm. Construction work at the naval facility could “possibly begin in 2011” and the installation is forecasted to be operational by 2014, according to a DND statement.

But sources tell Defence Watch that the program could slip further behind schedule, mainly because of construction and environmental issues associated with building projects in the Arctic.

The sources noted that construction at the Nanisivik site was originally scheduled to commence in the summer of 2010. It is estimated the project will cost around $100 million.

In May, Defence Department officials told a Senate committee that the facility was going to be operational as early as 2012.

“The Nanisivik berthing and refuelling facility has had initial site studies done,” explained William Pentney, Associate Deputy Minister of National Defence. “Construction work will begin in 2011.  We expect it to be operational initially in 2012 and fully operational by 2015, appreciating that Arctic seasons are short and there is a fair bit of work to be done to ensure we are meeting the environmental and planning standards as well as developing something that will be effective.”

Pentney noted that the U.S. and other allies could also use the facility. “Canada cooperates with the United States to a great degree in search and rescue and Coast Guard activities in the North and I am sure we would be happy to welcome the American military, and perhaps other militaries, to our base in our internal waters to refuel and undertake training,” he added.

Located more than 1,000 nautical miles by sea north of Iqaluit, the facility will serve as a staging area for naval vessels on station in the high Arctic, enabling them to re-supply, refuel, embark equipment and supplies, and transfer personnel. This will extend the range of Canadian ships in the Arctic during the navigable season (approximately June to October), according to the Canadian government.

Military and government officials have noted that the site is strategically located inside the eastern entrance to the North West Passage. As a deep-water berthing facility already exists at this site, start-up costs will be significantly reduced, they say. With its sheltered harbour, nearby jet-capable airstrip, and proximity to the North West Passage, Nanisivik offers an ideal location for the docking and refuelling facility, according to background information provided by the Defence Department.

The initial design contact announced Thursday was awarded to WorleyParsons Westmar Ltd., from North Vancouver, B.C.

In a statement Thursday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the contract award “demonstrates” the Conservative government’s commitment to ensuring Canada’s security and exercising sovereignty in the North.

This contract, worth just under $900,000, is for the first of four design phases of the project, according to Defence Department officials.

This initial design phase will establish the various requirements for construction, as well as preliminary design work that will lay the foundation for the remaining design phases. The other three design phases will involve conceiving detailed plans and designs, developing drawings, and preparing construction estimates for the facility, DND noted.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:


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