Two Canadian warships were ordered to return to port in Esquimalt, B.C. after colliding during an exercise while en route to Hawaii, and two separate reviews have been planned to assess the damage and find out what happened.
The Canadian Navy said an investigation into the collision between HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Protecteur will be launched, and a Board of Inquiry will make recommendations on how to prevent similar accidents in the future.
"The Royal Canadian Navy will be conducting an investigation into this unfortunate incident in order to determine exactly what happened," Commodore Bob Auchterlonie, Commander of Canadian Fleet Pacific, said in a statement released by the Department of National Defence on Saturday.
The accident occurred Friday morning while the warships were conducting towing exercises, which require close-quarters manoeuvring.
“To be very upfront and candid, something went dramatically wrong, and that’s a bit of an understatement,” Auchterlonie told The Canadian Press Saturday.
He said the towing exercise was a “normal part” of routine operations at sea.
“There is an inherent risk of ships operating together at sea in close proximity, but this sort of incident, I've not come across in my career.”
Officials said HMCS Algonquin sustained significant damage to its port side hangar and will no longer be deployed to the Asia Pacific region.
HMCS Protecteur, a supply ship, received lesser damage to the bow.
The ships each had more than 300 crew members on board. While there were no reports of injuries, Auchterlonie said sailors are to receive support upon their return.
“Both the command teams on board Algonquin and Protecteur are very engaged with their ships' companies, because the first concern we have is for the safety and security of our sailors,” he said.
The navy says it is too early to assess how much repairs will cost or how long the ships will be out of commission.
"The full impact of the sailing schedule has not yet been determined, but clearly by the extent of the damage on Algonquin, she's not deploying," said Auchterlonie. “We're looking at options for Protecteur, as well.”
Retired Major General David Fraser, a former NATO commander in Afghanistan, told CTV News Channel Saturday the collision has dealt a “severe blow” to the navy.
The Algonquin, he said, is only one of three destroyer ships, and the Protecteur is one of two supply ships.
And, the setback comes at a time when the navy is facing financial cutbacks.
“The navy is going to have to dig down deep to find the money to repair these ships,” Fraser said.
However, Canada is not being put at risk in terms of its naval strength, Fraser said.
“They plan for contingency operations,” he said. “They’ll go figure out what other ships can fill the operational requirement.”
According to the Royal Canadian Navy’s website, the Algonquin is an Iroquois-class destroyer built in the early 1970s.
Protecteur is an auxiliary oil replenishment ship that was launched in 1969. The vessel, along with its sister ship, the HMCS Preserver, can carry a large amount of supplies, including 14,590 tons of fuel, 1,000 tons of dry cargo and 1,250 tons ammunition.
The Department of Defence is considering a plan replace Protecteur and its sister ship, HMCS Preserver.