The Canadian navy will take possession of two Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships in the new year — and it looks like they’ll be spending as much time in the sunny south as they do in the Far North.
Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, the commander of the navy, told CBC News recently that military planners see the ships playing a role in delivering disaster relief in the Caribbean, where hurricanes have been increasing in size and destructive power.
“We can see a great opportunity to use this hurricane response as we go forward,” McDonald said in a year-end interview. “Ironically, the Arctic offshore patrol vessel will find itself equally spending its time between our Far North and down south in support of our securing the continent.”
The first of the long-awaited patrol ships, HMCS Harry DeWolf, conducted sea trials a few weeks ago under the supervision of its builder, Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax. It’s due to be handed over to the navy in the spring, McDonald said.
Some members of the ship’s inaugural crew took part in the shakedown to familiarize themselves with the new vessels.
“We’ve completed our training and we’re ready to take it,” McDonald said.
A second ship, HMCS Margaret Brooke, will be delivered to the navy in the fall.
Irving’s Halifax Shipyard originally was slated to deliver the Harry DeWolf in 2018, but the deadline was pushed ahead to the end of 2019 and then pushed again into 2020.
That new timeline puts the date of delivery nearly five years after construction started.
McDonald said there are always delays when the first ships in a new class of vessels are introduced and the navy is satisfied it will receive fully functional, capable ships.
“We know that the lessons learned from tackling those production challenges, they’re being folded into the second ship and into the third ship,” he said.
Major component blocks of the third ship are being assembled at the Halifax yard now, and company officials, speaking recently on background, said production has become exponentially more efficient since the completion of the second vessel.
Steel for the fourth ship is being cut and shaped.
The brainchild of the former Conservative government, the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships originally were pitched 15 years ago as three armed heavy icebreakers for the Far North. That morphed into a plan — originally pegged at $3.1 billion — to build eight light icebreakers. The number was cut to five (with the possible addition of a sixth) by the time the program got underway.
A little more than a year ago, the Liberal government confirmed it would build a sixth ship for the navy and construct two others for the Canadian Coast Guard.
Irving is the prime contractor for the navy’s new frigate program; some expressed concerns that the company would be stuck with a gap in production between the frigates and the patrol ships. The addition of the three new ships promised by the Liberals all but closes that construction gap, company officials acknowledged. It also added $800 million to the program’s revised $3.5 billion budget.
CBC News recently was given access to the Harry DeWolf as contractors completed last-minute work. Compared with previous Canadian warships, its cabins and work areas are spacious and high-tech.
McDonald said he believes the versatile design will make the ship useful, not only for sovereignty and security patrols, but also for research projects.
“We can bring on scientists,” he said. “We can bring on teams focused around missions that are larger than the navy as we go forward.”
At least 34 dead after floods in north India
At least 34 people have died following days of heavy rains in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand, the state’s chief minister said, as rescuers continued work to free those stranded on Wednesday.
Aerial footage of the affected areas showed engorged rivers and villages partially submerged by floodwaters.
“There is huge loss due to the floods … the crops have been destroyed,” Pushkar Singh Dhami told Reuters partner ANI after surveying the damage late on Tuesday.
“The locals are facing a lot of problems, the roads are waterlogged, bridges have been washed away. So far 34 people have died and we are trying to normalise the situation as soon as possible.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet he was “anguished” by the loss of life.
The Himalayan state of Uttarakhand is especially prone to flooding. More than 200 were feared killed in February after flash floods swept away a hydroelectric dam.
Unseasonally heavy rains across India have led to deadly floods in several areas of the country in recent days. Authorities in the southern state of Kerala said on Monday more than 20 people had died there following landslides. (This story corrects typographic error in the last paragraph)
(Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Jane Wardell)
Japanese volcano spews plumes of ash, people warned away
A volcano erupted in Japan on Wednesday, blasting ash several miles into the sky and prompting officials to warn against the threat of lava flows and falling rocks, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.
Mount Aso, a tourist destination on the main southern island of Kyushu, sent plumes of ash 3.5 km (2.2 miles) high when it erupted at about 11:43 a.m. (0243 GMT), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
It raised the alert level for the volcano to 3 on a scale of 5, telling people not to approach, and warned of a risk of large falling rocks and pyroclastic flows within a radius of about 1 km (0.6 mile) around the mountain’s Nakadake crater.
The government is checking to determine the status of a number of climbers on the mountain at the time, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters, but added that there were no reports of casualties.
Television networks broadcast images of a dark cloud of ash looming over the volcano that swiftly obscured large swathes of the mountain.
Ash falls from the 1,592-metre (5,222-foot) mountain in the prefecture of Kumamoto are expected to shower nearby towns until late afternoon, the weather agency added.
Mount Aso had a small eruption in 2019, while Japan’s worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years killed 63 people on Mount Ontake in September 2014.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
UK Manchester Airport terminal to reopen after security scare
Terminal Two at Britain’s Manchester Airport will reopen after Greater Manchester Police found no security threat following reports of a suspicious package, a spokesperson for the airport said on Tuesday.
“…Greater Manchester Police is satisfied that there is no security threat and has lifted the cordon that was in place,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the terminal will reopen within the next hour.
The terminal was closed earlier on Tuesday evening after police began assessment of reports of a suspicious package.
In a previous statement, the airport said a “controlled evacuation” was taking place.
(Reporting by Costas Pitas and Nishit Jogi in Bengaluru; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Richard Pullin)
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