On Thursday 20 July 2017, I had the privilege to attend the unveiling and christening ceremony of MV Asterix, Resolve class AOR, at the Shipyard of Chantier Davie Canada Inc. in Levis, Quebec. Asterix is owned by Federal Fleet Services of Ottawa and when complete, the ship will be leased to the Royal Canadian Navy as an Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment Ship (AOR).
Project Resolve Background
Project Resolve has been spearheaded by Federal Fleet to provide the RCN with an interim replenishment ship. With the early paying off of the Canadian Navy’s two AOR’s, PROVIDER and PROTECTOR, the RCN was without the capability of re-supplying it’s ship at sea. Two Joint Support Ships (JSS) have been ordered by the RCN from Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver, British Columbia. Delivery of these ships is not expected until 2021. This has left the RCN with an serious logistical deficit.
MV Asterix is Federal Fleets answer to this situation. Project Resolve has taken an existing container ship and converted it into an AOR. Once complete the ship will be manned by civilian sailors with the RCN providing sailors for the Air Detachment and Naval Operations.
Canadian Maritime History is Made
Asterix is the largest naval ship to be built in Canada!
The unveiling/christening ceremony for this ship, matched the importance of the Canadian Naval historical milestone.
Well advertised, thousands of people entered the dockyard to witness this event, filling the space around the largest drydock in Canada.
Dignitaries were gathered along the rail of the drydock and in an elevated platform. Spencer Fraser, CEO of Project Resolve, began the speeches and was followed by a number of Project leaders, politicians and representative of the RCN.
Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy commented on the exceptional qualities of the new ship and the capabilities she will provide to our ships at sea. He also remarked on the unique accommodations of the ship for the sailors. With each sailor having their own cabin, it will make it difficult for them the return to a warship.
Also included in the service was a blessing from Oney Maher, Elder Huron-Wendat Nation, calling on natures four elements, earth, fire, wind and water to watch over this ship and protect all who sail in her.
Christening a New Ship
Many sailors believe the birth of a new ship and the success of her career is sealed in the christening. Some “Old Salts” strongly believe if the christening of the ship does not go perfectly, the fate of the ship and all who sail in her may be set in bad luck.
With thousands of onlookers, ship sponsor Pauline Théberge wife of the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, moved to the wing of the stage. The christening ceremony is very simple, Mrs Théberge spoke these monumental words, “I name you Asterix, may God bless this ship and all who sail in her.”
With a snip of the red ribbon holding the bottle of Canadian Sparkling Wine released, sending the bottle hard against the hull of the ship. All could hear the sound of glass shattering on steel and the sparking wine erupted from the bottle, showering the bow of Asterix in a fizzy foam.
From the dockyard great fanfare erupted over the PA system and fireworks streamed from Asterix‘s rail to the thunderous cheers and applause of the thousands of onlookers.
The employees of Chantier Davie, tested the christening rig with three bottles of Sparkling Wine, to ensure that the bottle broke on the first strike. Knowing a few superstitious people may be in the crowd.
MV Asterix will be leased to the RCN on completion, ownership of the ship will remain with Federal Fleet. At the end of the ten year lease there is an option for the Federal Government to purchase the ship. Only then would Asterix receive the Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) designation.
With the official ceremonies complete, many in the large crowd discussed the incredible work the employees of Chantier Davie have accomplished in converting this ship from a container ship to an advanced AOR capable of supporting RCN operations around the globe.
Personally I was awestruck at seeing Asterix on this historic day. The first I saw her was on 20 October 2015, shortly after the ship arrived at the shipyard. The transformation of the ship in remarkable.
Tours of the ship were conducted by the future crew of Asterix and provided a glimpse into the innovations that will enable the RCN to meet and exceed its operations. The ship tour will be a focus of another blog, to follow.
With the crowd dissipated, a reception was held in the evening at the prestigious Chateau Frontenac in Old Quebec City. All the guests enjoyed the fellowship in celebrating with Chantier Davie and Federal Fleet accomplishments in Asterix‘s building.
I have been following this project since it was first proposed in early 2015. Project Resolve has moved steadily forward with a simple goal in mind, to provide Canada’s Navy with a capable AOR. There have been issues along the way, but no matter what, the goal of all concerned, has remained in place. Completion of this project is expected to be in November of this year.
Project Resolve is providing jobs not only in the shipyard, but also for Canadians across the country, providing the systems and material for this ship.
It takes an army to keep a shipyard in operation, but it takes a strong, dedicated, cohesive team to build a ship! BRAVO ZULU to all from welders, pipe fitters, crew members and executives.
As an author of Canada’s Naval History, I was truly honoured to be invited to attend this historic event. Thank you Chantier Davie and Federal Fleet for giving me the opportunity to witness Canadian History!
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