METRO VANCOUVER - Seaspan kicked off a $200-million upgrade to its North Vancouver shipyard Friday, saying that the redevelopment will launch the rebirth of the West Coast shipbuilding industry.
The shipyard infrastructure investment marks the first major expenditure in B.C. related to the federal National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. Seaspan landed the $8-billion federal procurement contract a year ago Friday.
Seaspan will build seven vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy under the contract.
Seaspan president Jonathan Whitworth said the construction project alone will require 150 workers. Seaspan expects the actual shipbuilding project to swell the employment ranks at the North Vancouver site from 200 to 1,200 by 2016, providing stable work over the next decade for shipbuilders on the North Shore.
At a groundbreaking ceremony at the shipyard, called Vancouver Shipyard, Whitworth described the contract as “a true game-changer for the shipbuilding industry.”
The redeveloped shipyard, he said, “will once again build large complex vessels for the federal government,” as well as other future non-government shipbuilding projects. Future B.C. ferries could be built at the shipyard, he said — the federal shipbuilding strategy means B.C. will have the capacity to do it.
“I do believe there is going to be capacity either at Vancouver Shipyards, Victoria Shipyards or one of our competitors that can actually build the future BC Ferries vessels.”
Naomi Yamamoto, North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA and B.C. minister of state for small business, said the issue of building more ferries now is hypothetical, but if the industry can prove it is competitive, “we may see B.C. ferries built in British Columbia.”
Seaspan intends to build four new buildings and install an 85-metre tall gantry at Vancouver Shipyard. Construction begins right away and is expected to be completed by 2015.
It will require a million kilograms of steel and 1,000 truckloads of concrete, Whitworth said. About $20 million of the investment is in new state-of-the art tools for workers, he noted.
Although construction of the largest vessels under the federal contract will not begin until 2016, Whitworth said construction on two smaller vessels can begin in the second half of 2013. Seaspan is to build three offshore fisheries science vessels, one offshore oceanographic science vessel, one polar icebreaker, and two joint support ships.
The $8-billion Seaspan contract is part of a $33-billion, 20-year federal shipbuilding program. The largest contract, for $25 billion, went to Irving Shipbuilding of Nova Scotia.
Rona Ambrose, federal minister of public works and government services, said the federal procurement program was designed to ensure long-term development of the shipbuilding industry in Canada.
“Seaspan’s $200-million investment in Vancouver Shipyards to make it a world-class shipbuilding centre of excellence is proof that the shipbuilding industry is back to stay in Canada,” Ambrose said.
Published : October 24, 2012