Canada’s Pacific Coast in capable hands, despite absence of naval fleet

Warships could be redeployed to respond to emergencies

HMCS Vancouver

HMCS Vancouver

With hundreds of West Coast military personnel, seven ships and a submarine away at sea, CFB Esquimalt may seem like a ghost town.

Two warships, three maritime coastal defence vessels and submarine HMCS Victoria are sailing in Hawaiian waters as part of a multi-national Rim of the Pacific exercise until Aug. 3.

Warship HMCS Regina left for the Arabian Sea on Tuesday. HMCS Vancouver will sail with her until they reach Hawaii.

Two frigates remain at the base, though there are other smaller naval vessels training in local waters. HMCS Calgary just left the shop and HMCS Winnipeg is about to undergo a mid-life refit.

Having the bulk of the West Coast fleet sailing at the same time is, in fact, an ideal situation, in the eyes of navy leaders.

“What we want is to have as many ships at sea doing (the) training and operations that are ultimately what we are all about,” said navy Capt. Luc Cassivi, chief of operations for Maritime Forces Pacific. “This is good news that we are getting as much as we can out of our ships.”

Ships sailing abroad or at home can be quickly reassigned to respond to an emergency situation, though there is typically advance intelligence that allows the navy to prepare, Cassivi said.

In the event of a domestic emergency, several provincial and federal government agencies would respond before the navy is called in.

“They tap on us as a force of last resort if they don’t have capacity, or if the situation is beyond what they are capable of managing,” he said.

The navy is always ready to support other agencies, which doesn’t limit it from carrying on with regular activities, such as training exercises and missions abroad.

“… We need to train our sailors and we need to get our ships ready and our crew used to managing life at sea and operations, so that when we do get a tasking for international (or), national operations we (will) have as ready a crew that we can to deal with those situations,” Cassivi said.

emccracken@vicnews.com