Follow our progress as we build Canada's fleet

Block by Block:
Building Canada’s Largest Naval Ship

Proudly building the Joint Support Ships for the Royal Canadian Navy, under Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy. Scroll through our photo gallery and watch our videos to see the JSS take shape at Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver, BC.

Photo Gallery

June 2021 - The engines are mounted on their foundation

May 2021 - The engines arrive at Vancouver Shipyard

March 2021 – The bulbous bow and bow thruster blocks joined together as the forward end of the vessel gets closer to consolidating.

March 2021 Construction of the first JSS is well advanced, with over 90% of the ship’s blocks currently in production. One of the 1,500-tonne grand blocks of JSS 1 was recently moved into final position in the shipyard, and the major blocks that make up the ship’s bow section, including the bulbous bow, are also being integrated. Seaspan is now preparing for the arrival and installation of the main engines.

February 2021 – The 5,800 kg bow thruster heads into the paint ship and then on to grand blocking. The bow thruster draws water in one side and out the other, making side-to-side maneuvering of the ship a breeze. 

December 2020 – We're marking up the growth chart! Almost 90% of the ship's block were in some stage of production, and the ship had reached almost 40% of its full length of 173.7 metres. Growing longer & taller every day.

October 29, 2020 – The bulbous bow has arrived! This huge steel structure, 11 metres high, 18 metres long, and weighing 100 tonnes travelled by barge from Ideal Welders in Delta, BC, down the Fraser River and up the Burrard Inlet, arriving in the early morning hours at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards’ facility. The bow will go to the blast and paint shop before it joins up with several other bow blocks to form a grand block for the Joint Support Ship. The making of the bulbous bow represents shipyard-supplier collaboration at its finest, with the Seaspan Shipyards team procuring, cutting and forming the steel components as well as overseeing the accuracy control and engineering aspects of the build while Ideal Welders performed the assembly.

October 20, 2020 – Lifting a block is easy peasy with our state-of-the-art turning jig. Block 040 being lifted, turned right-side up and precisely placed onto the growing hull structure of the future Royal Canadian Navy Joint Support Ship. This 24-metre 67.8-tonne full-beam block completes another vertical
ring section of the JSS hull structure. This block sits at the forward end of the ship and forms the working deck that will be in the vicinity of the replenishment-at-sea (RAS) equipment used for transferring marine and aviation fuel and other supplies to the rest of the fleet.

The future HMCS Protecteur and HMCS Preserver Joint Support Ships are being built by Seaspan Shipyards for the Royal Canadian Navy under Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy. With a length of 173.7 metres and a beam of 24 metres, the JSS will be the largest ship by length ever built in Canada. Its role will be to replenish naval task groups with marine fuel and other provisions. The ship will be able to carry about 6,000 tonnes of marine fuel, 875 tonnes of aviation fuel, and 1,100 tonnes of ammunition. It will be fully equipped to support naval operations, with deck space to carry vehicles, containerized cargo, spare parts and food and water. It will also have a modern hospital, dental and communications facilities and a helicopter hangar. As a warship, it will include sophisticated damage control and self-defence systems that will allow it to conduct a full range of military operations in high-threat environments. It will also support training and naval manoeuvers and humanitarian operations, ensuring Canada’s continued safety and security at home and abroad. The vessel will have a cruising speed of 15 knots, a top speed of 20 knots and a range of approximately 10,800 nautical miles.

August 13, 2020 – Block 038 is lifted onto the hull structure of the future HMCS Protecteur Joint Support Ship. Block 038 is a full beam block, which means it’s the full breadth of the 24-metre-wide ship and will sit at the second deck level, two decks below the main weather deck. This is another block in a series of blocks that hold stores and supplies to replenish a task group of naval vessels while at sea conducting operations. It sits above a large cargo fuel tank and below a task group provisions hold. Once assembled onto the JSS hull, it will be ready for steel and pipefitters and electricians to begin outfitting.

May 30, 2020 – An aerial view of the Joint Support Ship (JSS) under construction at Seaspan’s Vancouver shipyard. The Grand Block on the left, Block 435, getting ready to join up with the rest of the ship in SOC 80 on the right. Block by block, the Royal Canadian Navy’s new JSS warship is quickly taking shape.

May 27, 2020 – The bulbous bow – at the pointy end of the ship! – is one of the more complex blocks on a ship in terms of geometry. The curved vertical pieces, shown here and currently bottom side up, are spaced close together to give the bulbous bow great strength, which it needs to do its job as the first part of the vessel to pierce through the water, minimizing drag and making the entire vessel flow through water efficiently. Each piece of steel was precision-cut at Seaspan’s Vancouver shipyard and is being welded into shape at Ideal Welders, a Delta, BC-based supplier and longstanding Seaspan NSS partner. In the coming weeks, the bulbous bow will be transported by sea back to the shipyard for blast & paint, outfit and assembly onto the Joint Support Ship being built for the Royal Canadian Navy.

May 27, 2020 – See it while you can! In all its glory, a last look at the bow thruster before it is installed inside the Royal Canadian Navy’s Joint Support Ship (JSS) being constructed at Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver. The bow thruster helps make it easier to manoeuvre the forward end of the vessel left (port) and right (starboard), especially important when parking, or docking and undocking, the ship.

May 22, 2020 – Block 059 is lifted onto the growing structure of the future HMCS Protecteur, the first of two Joint Support Ships being built by Seaspan Shipyards for the Royal Canadian Navy. Block 059, which will be located close to the middle of the completed ship, will consist of a treatment room and cooling room for long-term storage of solid and wet waste; during service of the vessel no waste will be discharged overboard.

May 19, 2020 – Grand Block 437 joins up with the three Grand Blocks already in place. The future HMCS Protecteur is now about 46.5 meters long. Over the next year or so, the ship will grow block by block to its full length of 173.7 metres – nearly two football fields – and will be the largest naval ship by length ever built in Canada.

May 19, 2020 – From the first cut of steel in June 2018, the future HMCS Protecteur is rapidly taking shape in SOC-80 (SOC stands for Stage of Construction) – the area of the shipyard for the most advanced stages of assembly and outfit prior to vessel launch. The ship’s first four Grand Blocks have been erected and are starting to take on the recognizable shape of a ship. Over the course of construction, a total of 38 Grand Blocks will be constructed, outfitted and erected.

May 19, 2020 – Seaspan Shipyards employees don safety equipment and follow COVID-19 precautions and protocols throughout the yard. Here, an employee prepares to work in one of the Joint Supply Ship’s two pipe tunnels, which will run underneath the fuel tanks for the length of the forward two-thirds of the ship. Inside the tunnel is the piping that supports fueling and ballasting operations, as well as a trolley on rails that will enable maintenance personnel to zip forward and aft throughout the vessel. This photo shows one of the pipe tunnels as it has come together so far through three Grand Blocks.

May 19, 2020 – Grand Block 437 towers above a worker at Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver. At 11 metres high, this block is only a fraction of what the full height of the ship will be – approximately 43.5 metres from keel to mast top, or 35.5 metres above the water line. This photo clearly shows the ship’s double hull structure, which encapsulates what will be saltwater ballast tanks on each side. Ballast tanks are critical for maintaining ship stability while fueling from the ship at sea. Inside this block are three fuel tanks that will house marine fuel. At bottom on either side of the block’s centreline are two large pipe tunnels, which will run the entire length of the forward two-thirds of the ship.

May 19, 2020 – Skilled tradesworkers use the computer-aided Portal Press machine – an advanced piece of shipyard equipment that can press heavy plates of steel into complex shapes, bends and curves that no other machine or press can do within the yard. Here, workers bend a piece of plate steel into a precise shape for the Joint Support Ship under construction. The complex forming and shaping stage of construction occurs in the SOC-30 area of the shipyard. You’ll also notice a number of wooden templates, or jigs, in the photo; these are used to check accuracy of the bends once complete.

May 19, 2020 – SOC-40 is the area of the shipyard where block assembly happens. Smaller sub-assemblies from SOC-20 are brought together here to form a block. At top left of this photo is one side of Block 47, a large tank block. Directly opposite (top right, in background) and lying on its side is the other side of Block 047, which engineers and skilled production staff will rotate vertically and then join the two sides together to form the final block. Behind Block 047, barely visible in this photo, the same assembly process is happening with Block 046. In the foreground are support structures called pin jigs, which can be adjusted to support a flat or curved block. Here, pin jigs are in position to support an incoming large rectangular assembly. 

May 19, 2020 – A look into SOC-20, which is the Stage of Construction (SOC) area of the shipyard where parts of a block are built. In the foreground are several steel structural support members ready to be incorporated into a larger sub-assembly. From here, sub-assemblies move on to SOC-40 for block assembly. The chalk marks on each piece of steel? A bit of shipbuilders’ shorthand: 194 is the shipyard hull identifier number of the first Joint Support Ship (JSS); 031-3001 is the block number followed by the number of the manufacturing series drawing.

April 16, 2020 – A ship build is typically broken down into individual block units, which are then joined, most often in groups of four, to form Grand Blocks. But some individual blocks stay solo, like this one. Here, Block 082 is being lifted by Big Blue – Seaspan’s state-of-the-art 300-tonne, 80-metre high gantry crane. The landing of Block 082 completes the first vertical ring section of the ship, from the keel to the weather deck.

April 16, 2020 – With millimetre precision, Seaspan Shipyards’ steel, accuracy, transportation and engineering teams move Block 082 into position. The JSS structure is taking shape just behind another ship under construction in Seaspan’s Vancouver shipyard, the future CCGS John Cabot, easily identified by the iconic red and white of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet. What’s so exciting about JSS Block 082? It’s one of the first blocks that clearly shows where sailors will work and live every day. In this photo, the visible side of Block 082 (starboard side) shows what will be the breezeway, or passageway, which will be open to the atmosphere. Above this block on the weather deck, two rescue boat davits will be mounted, one on either side of the vessel. This block will house sleeping quarters and wash areas for junior ranking sailors as well as a gathering area for daily duty watch personnel.

January 16, 2020 – Seaspan Shipyards and many of its employees gather at Seaspan’s Vancouver shipyard for a ceremonial keel laying event for the Royal Canadian Navy’s future Joint Support Ship HMCS Protecteur. Employees were joined by several dignitaries, including the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Member of Parliament for North Vancouver, and Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy. The keel laying event is a significant milestone in a ship’s construction and involves the placement of a newly minted coin near the keel, where it will remain for the duration of the ship’s life. The coin is said to bring good luck for the builders and for all those who sail the vessel.

Video Gallery

Scroll through our video gallery using the arrow keys at far left and right.

June 2021 – Joint Support Ship engines mounted on foundation

The future Joint Support Ship’s engines are mounted and ready for the next stage of production.

May 2021 – Forward and Mid Island Move

The future Joint Support Ship is growing longer as the vessel’s forward and mid sections join together.

May 2021 – The Engines Arrive

The two engines for the future Joint Support Ship arrive at Vancouver Shipyard

March 2021 – Getting the engine room ready

Flipping one of the blocks that will join up with its twin and form the foundation to support the engine of the Joint Support Ship.

March 2021 – We’re Pumped

The Pump Room for the Royal Canadian Navy’s future Joint Support Ship moves into position to join up with the growing hull structure


The Royal Canadian Navy’s future Joint Support Ship has been going through a big growth spurt lately. Repositioning the growing hull structure to make room for the next blocks.


The bulbous bow for the future HMCS Protecteur Joint Support Ship emerges from the blast & paint shop with the first of several coats of paint, ready to join up with the growing hull structure.

October 29 - Bulbous Bow Arrival

A clip of the future HMCS Protecteur bulbous bow being delivered from Ideal Welders in Delta, BC to Seaspan’s North Vancouver shipyard. Transporting a complex structure five story’s high is no easy feat. Proudly made in Canada for Canada!

June 15 – Block Move

And…snap! The 12 th Grand Block – known in the yard as #435 – moves into position. Exciting to see the future Joint Support Ship for the Royal Canadian Navy quickly taking shape.

October 20 - Block Lift

Lift. Turn. Place. Moving a 24-metre 68-tonne block is easy peasy with out state-of-the-art turning jig. Block 40 completes another section of the future Joint Support Ship for the Royal Canadian Navy.