A floating fence would protect ships in Halifax harbour (CP photo)

The Canadian navy is poised to begin installation of a floating fence aimed at protecting its ships in Halifax and Esquimalt, B.C.

For any large ship a continuing concern is the possibility of a small, fast boat loaded with explosives, heading in its direction. It's the type of attack that damaged the USS Cole in Oct. 2000, killing 17 sailors and wounding 39 others.

Now the navy wants to spend about $3.5 million for floating fences at each base, that could be two metres high.

"It's for force protection, to protect the assets we have here from any potential threats," said Lt.-Cmdr. Scott Tofflemire who monitors activity in the waters of Halifax harbour.

In the Nova Scotia capital there are concerns it may be an eyesore. Others, in the tourist industry, are worried the fence could cut into their business.


Map of the planned floating fence around Halifax harbour

Peter Murphy runs a tour company in Halifax harbour where every year thousands of tourists pay $20 to see the sites, including the navy ships. He says "it's probably the highlight of the tour. People want to see those ships."

But aesthetics and tourism are easily trumped by the need for security, especially since it's not just Canadian ships that are vulnerable. Halifax plays host to ships from around the world.

The navy can't say exactly how high the fence will be. It still hasn't selected the winning design. The only sure thing at this point is that, by this summer, the days of getting close to a warship in Canadian waters will be over.