Nova Scotia

Royal Canadian Navy returns to Far North with commissioning of HMCS Harry DeWolf

HMCS Harry DeWolf was commissioned at a naval base in Halifax on Saturday, the first Royal Canadian Navy vessel built for Arctic military operations in decades.

The navy hasn't had an Arctic patrol vessel since 1957

Naval officers are shown observing the commissioning ceremony from the deck of HMCS Harry DeWolf. (Royal Canadian Navy)

HMCS Harry DeWolf was commissioned at a naval base in Halifax on Saturday, the first Royal Canadian Navy vessel built for Arctic military operations in decades.

The ship is designed to patrol Canada's Far North and offshore waters in addition to having global capabilities.

Named after the late Admiral Harry DeWolf of Bedford, N.S., it is the first navy vessel to be named after a Canadian naval hero. 

DeWolf's family were present for the commissioning on a jetty at CFB Halifax.

In a recorded video, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the vessel was built to perform multiple functions including surveillance and search and rescue.

Sajjan thanked the people of Halifax for their hand in building the ship, despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"You're the latest in a proud shipbuilding lineage dating back over one hundred years," he said. "You showed dedication, determination and flexibility as you carry on your critical work."

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is shown in a frame of a video of him commending the people of Halifax for their work in completing the ship. (Royal Canadian Navy)

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, who spoke in-person at the event, said it was time to celebrate the work of sailors who carried on the naval tradition in Halifax.

The navy took possession of the vessel on July 31, 2020, the first armed warship under the federal government's multibillion-dollar shipbuilding plan.

The vessel has been undergoing trials including cold weather and ice trials off the coasts of northern Labrador and Nunavut.

It has already been to sea for 111 days and sailed 19,814 nautical miles.

Now that it has been commissioned, HMCS Harry DeWolf will continue with training before embarking on a circumnavigation of North America in August. It is scheduled to return to Halifax in December. 

HMCS Harry DeWolf is shown heading from the Irving-owned Halifax Shipyard on its way to being delivered to the Royal Canadian Navy dockyard in Halifax in July 2020. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax is slated to build five more similar vessels for the navy and two for the Canadian Coast Guard in the next few years.

Then-prime minister Stephen Harper first announced plans to build up to eight armed Arctic patrol vessels in July 2007 and Irving was selected in October 2011 to produce them before building replacements for the navy's frigates and destroyers.

The following years saw several cost overruns and delays in the program.

Technical problems were also blamed for pushing the delivery date back several times. Then Irving closed its Halifax shipyard in March 2020 for several months because of COVID-19.

It's the first vessel specially built for military operations in the Arctic since the 1950s.

The Royal Canadian Navy will be the latest naval force with a presence in the Far North. Russia, the United States, China and some European countries have been increasing their maritime capabilities in the region in recent years.

With files from Paul Palmeter and The Canadian Press