Esquimalt Harbour Projects


The Royal Canadian Navy is getting a new parking spot worthy of a first-class modern navy.

On the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the Canadian Pacific Fleet finds its home. The naturally deep and well protected harbour has been a continually important military site since the mid 19th century and today is the site of the 41-square kilometre Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt (CFB Esquimalt).*

Physical infrastructure at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt enables operations at sea with its dockyard possessing several jetties and other infrastructure that backs up the RCN ships on shore. Completed in 1943, two of these jetties are now well beyond their service life. To keep up with the times, the Department of National Defence (DND) has started a project which includes the demolishing and replacing the existing “A” and “B” Jetties for a new chapter in CFB Esquimalt’s history.

Modernizing Infrastructure

“Canada’s modern ships need equally modern infrastructure,” says Clive H. Orford, the Project Director in Ottawa. “Todays ships are twice the size of that of their WW II predecessors, and this project will deliver the support the fleet needs.” Designed to accommodate the wider, heavier and deeper-draft ships from the new Canadian shipbuilding programs, the larger jetties will accommodate the next generation of naval ships, and will be better equipped for seismic or tsunami activities for disaster preparedness.

Design Consultants for the B-Jetty design is by the Engineering firm Stantec, and the A Jetty design is by Wood PLC. Once complete—the project is scheduled to be totally operational by 2028—the new jetties will have 33 percent more “berthing” space, with Jetty “A” being 305 metres long, and “B” 274 metres long. “As for the design of the new jetties, the Consulting Engineers deserve a ton of credit working through the engineering modeling of the new structures, and that engineering and design work has taken a great deal of time and effort,” says Orford. “The work that is currently underway, and that which has been already completed, have been our “warm-up” phases and we certainly look forward to bringing onboard the general contractor (builder) team in the near future.”

Started in 2012, the first phase of the project was a kilometre-long underground tunnel, running through the centre of the dockyard with power and telecommunication wires and water, steam and sewer mains. Concurrent with the jetty revitalization work, removal and remediation of contaminated areas of the harbour seabed and foreshore fill within Esquimalt Harbour is also being undertaken, negating the impact of over 100 years of industrial activities, storm sewers, surface runoff, and groundwater discharges.

“The A/B Jetty construction project is but one—yes, by dollar value the largest one—of a number of major DND projects that are currently underway, or soon to be getting underway, in the waters of Esquimalt Harbour,” says Orford.

Esquimalt Harbour is the traditional territory of local First Nation groups, with whom the DND has long maintained a healthy relationship. “Necessarily, we are taking all sorts of measures to manage the delivery of our projects with due attention to the workplace’s physical, natural, cultural and operational environment,” says Orford. The historic Dockyard is another aspect of the project that requires consideration, which Tonya Hughes, Project Manager, compares to “working near a European Cathedral”.

“We are impacting not only the built terrestrial environment of the historic Dockyard, yes, which over the last 150 years has altered the pre-existing natural environment of the site,” says Hughes, “but indeed the marine
environment lying beyond the Dockyard’s shoreline requires the utmost consideration to minimize the impact on the habitat, if not improve it. From concept to implementation, ensuring that we have a strong relationship with the communities and the dialogue with the First Nations and other stakeholders on environmental stewardship is open and strong has been critical.”

In the contaminated near-shore area around and beneath the A/B Jetty Project site, the
remediation work involves removal of contaminated sediments by dredging and capping of these areas through the placement of clean fill. This will considerably reduce exposure of marine life to contaminated sediments and provide diverse habitat for marine communities.

The remediation of other areas of Esquimalt Harbour is occurring at the same time as the construction project, and is being done with the guidance of Fisheries and Oceans
Canada. “We have worked hand-in-hand to make plans to replace habitat in advance of altering the habitat we have to impact,” says Hughes, “making sure everything we are
doing is ultimately bettering the marine

Unearthing History
Sediments are not the only thing behind dredged up in this process. Fascinating pieces of naval history are also being found at the bottom of the harbour in the process, including services medals, a “couple thousand” pairs of boot soles” (CBC), and pre-contact artifacts, which are all meticulously catalogued.

The entire team on this project has derived “a great deal of interest and satisfaction” in the artefacts that have been brought to the surface through the dredging activities, says Orford. “Aside from thousands of bits of old munitions and dozens upon dozens of
bottles and crockery items, tags, clay pipes and so on, there have been some simply brilliant cultural finds, some dating from the pre-contact period. The World War One medals of a naval seaman were especially poignant, and a tally-plate that belonged to a young Royal Navy Officer, JSG Fraser, was very interesting particularly from an early B.C.-coast surveying perspective (he had a long career and became a Rear-Admiral).”

The A/B Jetty Recapitalization Project and Esquimalt Harbour Remediation Project will support the RCN will into the future. Both the region and Royal Canadian Navy will derive benefit from the project, not least of which is 1,400 jobs, and the long-term operational efficiencies at CFB Esquimalt for the Pacific Fleet. For more information on this project and others, please visit

*Source: Royal Canadian Navy