CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent is a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker. Named after the twelfth Prime Minister of Canada, Louis St. Laurent, the vessel is classed a “Heavy Gulf Icebreaker” and is the largest icebreaker and ship in the Canadian Coast Guard’s fleet.
Built in 1969 by Canadian Vickers Ltd. in Montreal, Quebec, CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent underwent an extensive and costly modernization at Halifax Shipyard Ltd. in Halifax, Nova Scotia between 1988-1993 which saw her hull lengthened as well as new propulsion and navigation equipment installed.
The modernization program was controversial as the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney had initially proposed building the “Polar 8” class of icebreakers for promoting Canadian sovereignty in territorial waters claimed by Canada; the USCGC Polar Sea had made an unauthorized transit of Canada’s Northwest Passage in 1985 early in Mulroney’s administration, provoking a strong nationalist out-cry across the country. However, budget cuts to proposed expansions of the coast guard and armed forces were scrapped in 1988. In compensation to the coast guard, the government opted to modernize the largest icebreaker in its fleet, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.
She has been based at CCG Base Dartmouth in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia for her entire career. The vessel’s current operation tempo consists of summer voyages to Canada’s Arctic where she supports the annual Arctic sealift to various coastal communities and carries out multi-disciplinary scientific expeditions. During the winter months, CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent sometimes operates in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to aid ships in transiting to Montreal, Quebec, although she usually only serves this assignment during particularly heavy ice years.