The beginning of construction on the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) first Harry DeWolf-class of arctic offshore patrol vessels (AOPS) was officially marked with a keel-laying ceremony at Irving Shipyard in Halifax.

Following tradition, a coin was placed on the keel of the future HMCS Harry DeWolf vessel during the ceremony.

In January 2015, the Canadian Government awarded a $2.3bn DeWolf-class AOPS construction contract to Nova Scotia-based Irving Shipbuilding to build six vessels.

"This significant event in the ship’s life really signifies the birth of the ship."

Irving Shipbuilding president Kevin McCoy was quoted by the Chronicle Herald as saying: "This significant event in the ship’s life, it really signifies the birth of the ship if you will.

"It generates excitement that this entirely new class of ships is soon to be coming into the fleet, from a morale and an anticipation standpoint it certainly is a great thing for the Canadian Navy."

The vessel was named after vice-admiral Harry DeWolf, an officer who served in the Second World War with distinction, and later served as Chief of the Naval Staff in the late 1950s.

The Harry DeWolf-class vessels will allow the RCN to operate further north on a sustained basis into the Canadian Arctic, while boosting its Arctic collaboration with the Canadian Coast Guard, as well as other governmental departments and international allies.

The sealift and utility capability of the DeWolf-class vessels will enable RCN to conduct missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, or provide support to remote communities.

Capable of operating in ice of up to 1m thick, and sustaining operations for up to four months, the vessels will be equipped with advanced sensors and will operate and support the new Cyclone naval helicopters.