Icebreaker Design – The Fusion of Canadian and Finnish Expertise


Vard Marine (VARD) has a long history of collaboration with companies in Finland when it comes to icebreaker and ice-class vessel design.  In fact, our company was born 41 years ago when Finland’s Wartsila created Wartsila Arctic Inc. in Vancouver to pursue the then Polar 8 program. 

Since our beginnings in 1983, we have collaborated many times with our colleagues in Finland from a variety of companies who have worked with us on virtually every icebreaker program we have delivered.  The Canadian-Finland collaboration in this highly specialised market segment has always produced mutually beneficial results and that continues today. 

Ironically, while the Polar 8 program was cancelled in 1990 our company was later selected as the designer of record by the Canadian Coast Guard to design their current Polar Icebreaker.  The original design package was delivered in 2012 and subsequently updated in 2014 and 2019.  Today, we are working alongside Finland’s Aker Arctic and Elomatic to support the realization of this program at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards.

We also have a standing agreement to partner with ILS Ship Design & Engineering, located in Turku and Helsinki, Finland, to provide design solutions and address the challenges of ice-capable shipping worldwide. Our extensive combined design portfolio, impressive client base, and engineering expertise position us to help shipbuilders, ship owners and operators develop fit-for-purpose, sustainable ice-classed vessel designs for both the public and private sectors. 

We also welcome any opportunity to continue to work synergistically with other Finnish companies on programs right here in Canada and around the globe.  Our approach has always been to provide unbiased advice to our clients because trust is at the core of every relationship. We place this at the forefront of every project we undertake - an approach that is especially critical given the highly specialised nature of government icebreakers and their role supporting the national interest in very arduous environments.

With a portfolio of over 60 unique references for icebreakers and ice-capable vessels ranging from 19 to 150 metres, our record showcases an impressive knowledge base and a successful track record, particularly on government icebreaker programs. 

The continued fusion of Canadian and Finnish expertise and broader collaboration in this market sector, beyond what VARD and ILS can offer, makes perfect sense given the growing demand for ice-capable vessels.  We are ready, willing, and able to support the need for versatile multi-role government operated icebreakers that provide a sustained presence in polar waters to address the realities that Canada and all aligned nations face today. 

Some of the vessels in our portfolio include CCGS John G. Diefenbaker, USCGC Mackinaw, USCGC Healy, HMCS Harry DeWolf, the Armada de Chile’s Almirante Viel, and CCGS Captain Molly Kool (designed by ILS Oy, conversion engineering by Vard Marine). Please reach out to us for more information and insight into our complete reference list at