Skip to content

Princess Anne takes part in keys-to-the-ship ceremony for Arctic navy vessel in B.C.

VANCOUVER — The first Arctic patrol vessel for Canada's Pacific fleet has officially been commissioned in a ceremony featuring Princess Anne, the sister of King Charles.
Britain's Princess Anne, looks on, during a visit to Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre, to mark the 35th anniversary of the centre, in London, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. Canada's first Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessel will officially be brought into the Pacific fleet Friday in a commissioning ceremony attended by Princess Anne. THE CANADIAN PRESS/James Manning/Pool Photo via AP

VANCOUVER — The first Arctic patrol vessel for Canada's Pacific fleet has officially been commissioned in a ceremony featuring Princess Anne, the sister of King Charles. 

She attended the event Friday in North Vancouver in her role as commodore-in-chief for the Canadian Fleet Pacific. The ceremony was limited to one media photographer and one video camera.

The Department of National Defence said in a statement Friday that the official introduction of HMCS Max Bernays into the fleet included a "symbolic presentation of the keys to the ship" to the commanding officer, Commander Collin Forsberg, "along with the breaking of the ship’s commissioning pennant, and three cheers by the ship's company."

Forsberg told reporters ahead of the ceremony that the patrol vessel arrived in its new home port in Esquimalt last month. He said the ship was "designed for, principally, exercising Canadian sovereignty in northern waters."

He said the introduction of the ship, which was named after a Canadian naval hero in the Second World War, will allow the navy to better meet future defence challenges in the North.

"Just being here and doing our commissioning is amazing. It's been 2 1/2 years of very hard work for the crew of the HMCS Max Bernays," he said.

Forsberg said the vessel has not yet conducted missions for government, but the new ship will likely start by doing three- to four-month missions. The ship, he said, was designed to travel through waters with ice that is about a metre thick. 

"Having done the ice trials in the two predecessor ships to this, I know it can successfully do that and that's what makes us unique having the haul strength to go through Arctic ice."

The HMCS Max Bernays was built by Irving Shipbuilding Inc. and launched in Atlantic waters on Oct. 23, 2021.

Forsberg said the ship is fully staffed with 65 people, having spent the last nine months transitioning control of the ship to its West Coast staff.

"It's a very happy day for us but sort of a sad day as well because this is where, today, we say goodbye to our East Coast sailors," he said. 

Forsberg said it was "extremely special" to welcome Princess Anne to the ship for the ceremony. 

"It's a huge honour to be welcomed into the fleet by Her Royal Highness," he said. "It really hits home for the history of our ship."

It is the first ship in the Harry DeWolf-class attached to the Pacific Fleet, although the HMCS Robert Hampton Gray is expected to become the second such vessel to make the transfer between coasts, the Defence Department said in a statement issued last month.

During a media tour of the ship Friday, the ship's staff was seen preparing for Princess Anne's arrival. Among them was Lt. Cmdr. Clayton Erickson, who jumped in to help Lt. Alex Tremblay do his tie ahead of the ceremony. 

The tour also included a look into dining and living quarters, control rooms, sick bay, as well as the wardroom, or mess cabin, where the princess was scheduled to have dinner alongside the commander and others during her sail to Vancouver Island. 

The office of B.C.'s lieutenant-governor said last week that the princess and her husband, Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, would attend the commissioning, which would then be followed by an overnight sail to Esquimalt.

It is among a series of events for the princess during her three-day trip to B.C., that started with the commissioning ceremony in North Vancouver.

The princess's itinerary includes a visit to the archives and collections space of the Maritime Museum of B.C. in Victoria, which was founded with an initial donation by the princess's late father, Prince Philip.

She is scheduled to attend a commemorative service marking the Battle of the Atlantic at the British Columbia legislature and lay a wreath, as well as visit the Military Family Resource Centre.

Princess Anne is also slated to meet with Janet Austin, B.C.'s lieutenant-governor, and various community leaders from the province.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2024.

Brieanna Charlebois, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the ship was Canada's first Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessel. In fact, it is the first such vessel to join the Pacific fleet.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks