RCN committed to improving environmental stewardship

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Navy News / December 17, 2020

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is committed to achieving the energy and environmental objectives required to meet its commitments under the Defence Energy and Environment Strategy (DEES), while maintaining a naval force that is “Ready to Help, Ready to Lead, Ready to Fight.”

In order to meet these objectives, the RCN has developed a Green Strategy to help improve environmental stewardship by setting out a vision for an embedded green culture across all its bases, activities and business, which will result in reducing the Navy’s environmental footprint. This includes initiatives that will contribute to improved energy efficiency, enhanced environmentally sustainable operations, increased green procurement and expanded sustainable workplace practices. 

“We are committed to achieving the goals and objectives set out in the DEES, as well as contributing towards achieving broader Government of Canada commitments outlined in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and the Greening Government Strategy,” said Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander RCN, when recently asked about the Navy’s Green Strategy. “This will result in a steady state where our sailors and ships can operate globally with minimal negative impact on the environment.”

The RCN is applying its greening agenda to the operation of its current fleet and the transition to its future fleet, while implementing numerous specific environmental initiatives that support its Green Strategy.

The modernization and improvement of its environmental stewardship and climate change actions will be achieved by leveraging partnerships to synchronize, align, focus and accelerate efforts that solve current and future environmental problems.

The RCN will endeavor to exceed current environmental expectations, as well as emerging compliance areas when operationally feasible.

“Many individuals within the RCN’s Director General Maritime Equipment Program Management have been working with the broader Navy community to reduce the impact that our current and future fleets have on the environment, both at sea and in port,” said Commander Aaron Malek, Acting Director Naval Platform Systems. “These efforts are not only because of government policy, but because we recognize that we have a responsibility as Canadians to protect the long-term sustainability of our natural resources.”

Looking to the future

The RCN is in the process of renewing its fleet through the National Ship Building Strategy, and over the next 30 years will see the replacement of its current fleet. Building ships using modern technologies which are more energy efficient than those used to build the Halifax class has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

In fact, the design requirements for the new Canadian Surface Combatants (CSC) are for ships that allow the RCN to meet or exceed all current Canadian and international environmental regulations and laws, and the Department of National Defence continues to explore opportunities to improve the environmental footprint of these ships.

The CSC, for example, will have optimized hybrid propulsion systems that will more efficiently transfer the power produced in the engines to the ships’ propellers as compared to the engine configuration in the existing fleet, resulting in improved fuel efficiency.

Greening the current fleet

The RCN is both actively using new technologies and investigating other potential methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its current naval fleet and operations. Examples include:

  • The RCN currently uses a distillate fuel with ultra-low sulfur content, in order to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. However, to reduce this footprint even further, the Navy is in process of revising its fuel specification to accept a blend of conventional petroleum and low-carbon drop-in fuels (renewable fuels), when economically feasible.
  • The oily-water separation systems onboard Halifax-class ships are being replaced. Oily water separators are used to treat contaminated bilge water that may accumulate within machinery spaces. The separators will remove the oil from the contaminated water, in accordance with domestic and international regulations, and discharge the clean water overboard if permitted by local regulations. All oil residues are collected onboard and disposed of in a compliant manner.
  • The RCN is currently evaluating baseline energy and fuel usage within the in-service fleet, including the Halifax, Kingston, Orca and Harry DeWolf classes. It is investigating and incorporating energy-efficient improvements into the entire fleet and will develop a de-carbonization plan, which will include methods to monitor performance and measure energy usage and fuel savings.
  • The RCN also uses special coatings to reduce bio-fouling on its ships in order to maintain propulsion efficiency. Coatings that contain toxic chemicals can negatively impact the environment, so the RCN is pursuing new coating technologies with lower impact.
  • Ship refits and equipment obsolescence will provide opportunities to upgrade to more energy efficient or environmentally sustainable technologies, helping to inform decisions about future ship builds. For example, the lighting systems onboard the Halifax-class vessels are approaching obsolescence, and so LED lighting has been trialed, with the goal of reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • A new type of membrane is currently being tested, which has the potential to increase the efficiency of the dehumidification process onboard ships, reducing the energy used for air conditioning. Initial estimates hope to increase energy efficiency by up to 15 per cent.

Culture of environmental stewardship

The RCN promotes a culture of environmental stewardship by ensuring that its naval personnel are well-trained and aware of energy conservation opportunities and best practices to protect the environment.

“In terms of best practices for environmental protection, the RCN uses a three-pronged approach through the application of technology (and) equipment that enables us to meet legislative requirements, as well as through training and standard operating procedures, both of which help to mitigate the possibility of an environmental incident occurring, or minimize the environmental impact if an event were to occur,” said Lieutenant-Commander Linda Hodgkins, RCN Environmental Officer. “Furthermore, the RCN employs a combined Safety and Environmental Management System, which is a framework that enables the RCN to better meet continuously changing environmental requirements and to better contribute to environmental sustainability.”

The RCN is committed to its Green Strategy as it pertains to both its current and future fleets, and is diligently moving ahead with specific energy and environmental initiatives to ensure it meets or exceeds its DEES objectives.