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Princess Anne commissions new Navy ship in North Vancouver

HMCS Max Bernays, a Harry DeWolf-class Arctic and offshore patrol vessel, is the first new ship to join the Pacific Fleet in 25 years.

Princess Anne arrived in North Vancouver Friday afternoon to take part in the commissioning ceremony for the first new ship to join the Royal Canadian Navy’s Pacific Fleet in 25 years. 

The Princess Royal, sister of King Charles, arrived at the Burrard Dry Dock Pier around 4:15 p.m. to board a Navy frigate, the HMCS Vancouver, followed by the commissioning ceremony on board the HMCS Max Bernays, a new Arctic and offshore patrol vessel built at Irving Shipyard in Halifax. 

The princess, who arrived wearing military uniform, was attending the event in her capacity as honorary Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Pacific fleet. 

The commissioning ceremony – which is the formal process of putting a vessel into active service – took place aboard the ship and was not open to the public. 

Princess Anne arrives at Burrard Dry Dock Pier in North Vancouver Friday, May3. | Mark Teasdale

Prior to the ceremony, Cmdr. Collin Forsberg described it as “a huge honour [for the ship] to be welcomed into the fleet by Her Royal Highness.”

Security personnel closed the pier prior to Princess Anne’s arrival.

That didn’t stop a small crowd of royal watchers from spending most of the day near the ship, hoping to catch a glimpse of the princess.

Richard Dean said he had great admiration for the late Queen Elizabeth and feels Princess Anne is “carrying the baton forward.”

Denise Holliday said she’s carrying on a royal-watching tradition that’s been passed down in her family. “Whenever you have a chance to be in proximity, it’s always great to try and glimpse them,” she said. “As a royal she’s this strength and pillar to that family."

Following the commissioning ceremony, the Princess travelled onboard the Max Bernays overnight to its home port of Esquimalt on Vancouver Island, where she received a 21-gun salute as the ship entered Esquimalt Harbour. 

Princess Anne attended several events in Victoria area over the weekend including a tree planting at Government House and a visit to the Victoria Therapeutic Riding Association. She also laid a wreath during a ceremony at the B.C. legislature cenotaph to commemorate the Battle of the Atlantic, the largest and longest battle of the Second World War. 

Princess Anne boards the HMCS Vancouver at Burrard Dry Dock Pier in North Vancouver Friday, May3 prior to a commissioning ceremony for the HMCS Max Bernays. | Mark Teasdale

The HMCS Max Bernays was officially put into active service Friday as part of the Pacific Fleet after being launched in 2021 in Halifax. 

After cold-water trials, the ship left Halifax March 11 and sailed through the Panama Canal, arriving in Esquimalt April 15.

A Harry DeWolf-class Arctic and offshore patrol vessel, the ship is capable of operating under light ice conditions, meaning it can travel through a metre of ice at a speed of three knots, said Forsberg. One of the ship’s main duties is protecting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.

The ship is also expected to be tasked with humanitarian missions and disaster relief.

During an onboard tour of the ship prior to the commissioning ceremony, reporters were given a glimps of the an onboard medical facility capable of providing emergency care in situations where the ship is far from regular hospitals, a gym for the 65 regular crew members, a heliopter hanger and a landing craft vessel capable of taking personnel and equipment ashore. 

Equipped with a 20-tonne crane, the ship is designed to operate in a range of environments - from Arctic to tropical waters - and can accommodate loads such as shipping containers. 

Although primarily tasked as more of a patrol ship, the military vessel is also armed with two gun mounts for .50 calibre machine guns visible on the flight deck. 


HMCS Max Bernays in North Vancouver with Princess Anne in attendance for commissioning. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News