With a good staple of tugs, fishing boats, barges, ferries, cruise ships and naval and coast guard vessels keeping B.C.’s shipyards busy, it was a good report all round in this snapshot of the shipbuilding and repair industry on Canada’s West Coast. While most highlighted a typically slow start to the year, spring has been an exceptionally busy time and forecasts were positive moving forward. And while we weren’t able to get to all the yards, here’s a sampling of activity occuring over the past year…
Having just finished work on the Salish Sea Eclipse, a 23-metre catamaran for Victoria’s Prince of Whales Whale Watching in late April, Al Dawson and Burton Drody reported that activity this year was comparable to last but are expecting next year to be slower. “Transport Canada is implementing the stricter IMO pollution regulations on marine engines, making it more difficult and expensive for owners to build new vessels,” said Drody. “I think this will have an impact on new construction as owners will opt to fix up their old boats.”
ABD is building another two whale watching vessels, both 20 metres in length which should keep the team of 27 staff busy.
And, when asked our annual question on the labour market, Drody said that it remains a challenge to find qualified people, especially experienced metal fabricators.
Chuck Ko reported on a particularly busy 2018 with this year holding steady and “more in line with past years.” Allied has come out of a busy first and second quarter, completing a major refit on the CCGS Gordon Reid; special surveys on the Island Tugger and SMIT Saba; an intermediate inspection on the Seaspan Osprey; major refits on three large fishing vessels — Silver Dolphin, Knight Dragon and Nemesis — plus the regular assortment of ship repairs.
While entering into a short-term slow period due to the scheduling of upcoming jobs, Ko expects the activity level to increase in the near future with work just getting started on the Quadrennial docking as well as an inspection on the SST Tiger Sun and completion of repairs to two hopper barges. He also has bookings for major refits on self-propelled vessels into the fall.
Ko said he was actively looking to add to his current team of 80. “Allied is looking at recruiting, retaining and training new personnel in several key departments to increase our capability and transfer the skills and knowledge from long-term key employees before they retire to the younger employees,” he said.
Other news from Ko included a special note of the completion of a major maintenance program — steel repairs and re-coating wing tanks — on their large dry dock.
Alex Soo reported that Arrow Marine has been enjoying an active yard this year, stating “We’re doing quite well with a good mix of fish boats, tugs and pleasure craft,” he said, adding that they’ve also been taking in vessels for demolition and scrapping ever since the Canadian Coast Guard started making a push to get rid of derelict and abandoned vessels along the B.C. coastline.
Activities at the yard have ranged from the usual steel and aluminum welding and fabrication work, painting and sandblasting, to Transport Canada Inspections and vessels coming up on a four-year cycle. Arrow Marine has seen a few major refit projects this year, including one that had the Arrow team replace the main engine on the Harbour Cruises Paddle-Wheeler MPV Constitution, along with repainting the hull and superstructure, refitting the hydraulic system and other various upgrades.
When asked about labour and available tradespeople, Soo noted that, while they were currently at 18 employees, he would like to add a couple more. “It’s been a challenge to find the right personnel,” he said, “especially those who are able to provide greater versatility in their position and with their skills.” He also added that a main priority has been on retention, especially once an employee has been trained within the industry.
BC Ferries Fleet Maintenance Unit
Thanks to David Sharpe, General Manager, and Jonathan Bourget, Operations Manager for the following report: Another refit period (Sept-June) is coming to a close at the BC Ferries Fleet Maintenance Unit (FMU) in Richmond. It was a busy season with 21 vessels undergoing refit conducted at a combination of the Fleet Maintenance Unit, BC Ferries’ terminals and shipyards.
At the FMU, annual recertification and minor refit works took place on the Queen of Coquitlam, Salish Orca, Queen of Alberni, Queen of Cumberland, Queen of Oak Bay, Salish Eagle, Spirit of British Columbia, Salish Raven, and Northern Expedition. Annual refits completed at the terminals included the Coastal Renaissance, Coastal Celebration, and Coastal Inspiration. Major and intermediate dry dockings were effectively completed in local shipyards for the Queen of New Westminster, Powell River Queen, Northern Adventure, Queen of Cowichan, and Klitsa.
The Spirit of Vancouver Island took her long journey to Gdansk, Poland, to complete her mid-life upgrade (MLU) and conversion to dual-fuel LNG. She arrived back to the FMU in April where final preparations were made prior to entering in to service. The project was completed successfully and the vessel in now back operating on LNG.
The larger projects undertaken locally by BC Ferries this year included the re-flagging and upgrades to the Northern Sea Wolf and the three quarter life upgrade (TLU) to the Queen of Surrey. The Northern Sea Wolf was transferred to the FMU from Esquimalt in September, 2018 after completing the underwater portion and a significant amount of passenger upgrades. Work was completed at FMU in preparation for departure and commencing service on June 3. The Queen of Surrey was a very large TLU where FMU and contractors upgraded much of the crew and passenger areas including expanding the gift shop and renewing tables in the snack bar. Below deck there was a significant amount of work completed in the engine room by ship’s crew and FMU trades.
Annual refit work was completed in collaboration with highly skilled BC Ferries trades, technicians and specialized contractors. The refit season was logistically challenging as the Deas basin underwent a concurrent five-year dredging process. Now, as summer approaches and all vessels move in to operation, the FMU begins planning and preparing for next re-fit season maintaining and servicing shipyard tools & equipment.
Next year will be another busy refit year and will include a large Mid Life Upgrade to the Skeena Queen.
Bracewell Marine Group
Lance Bracewell was happy to report that, at present, Bracewell Marine Group “was swamped” after a typically slow start to the year. “Now, we’ve got some bookings that go right through the summer, but we are always ready to assist anyone if needed,” he said, adding that he’s seeing a lot of CSIs which will usually involve additional work while the vessel is in the yard. To provide just a few examples of projects on the go for Bracewell, Lance described work being done on the Starlight, a U.S. pleasure yacht (redoing the entire wheelhouse as well as some other fibreglass work); the Maren J, Jones Marine’s tug (new boxes, hull replacement, shaft work, new bearings, etc.); the Headstrong II (repair work after damage caused by last winter’s wind storms); and two gooey duck boats for the Parksville area.
Bracewell has been very successful in other areas of the business as well. “The winch business is going well and the shaft business has doubled since last year,” he said, adding that they purchased two new lathes to help keep up with the work. Extra staff have also been added, bringing employee numbers up to 37 at present.
As for industry issues, like ABD’s report, Bracewell mentioned the new regulations regarding marine engines and how these are a deterrent for owners to build new vessels. For Bracewell however, this bodes well for work on repairs. He also noted that now that tariffs have come off, pricing will come down slightly.
Esquimalt Graving Dock
Stafford Bingham, EGD’s Director who works for Engineering Assets / Infrastructure Asset Management of Public Services and Procurement Canada, reported that, despite seeing fewer vessels this past year at the government-owned facility, revenue had increased given that vessels stayed longer at dock. With approximately 64 federal government employees — ranging from High Voltage electricians, Crane Operators, Dry-dock Operators, admin staff, safety and security, Property and Facility Management staff, Project Management staff and Environmental Specialists — ships seen in the past fiscal year included the cruise ships Norwegian Sun and Ruby Princess; BC Ferries’ Northern Sea Wolf, Queen of New Westminster and Queen of Oak Bay; plus HMCS Winnipeg, CCGS Sir John Franklin and FRPD 309 among others.
Upcoming vessels of note that were scheduled for docking included the two New Zealand frigates (HMNZS TE KAHA and HMNZS TE MANA) as well as the two new Canadian Coast Guard Offshore Fisheries and Science Vessels, BC Ferries’ vessels (Skeena Queen, Queen of Capilano and Queen of Oak Bay), cruise ships (Disney Wonder and Noordam) and the MV Midnight Sun for a conversion to LNG/dual fuel.
- Having recently completed the replacement of the main (north) substation given the high-and low-voltage transformers were nearing the end of their service life cycle, Bingham outlined additional key infrastructure projects that were ongoing:
EGD’s two caissons are undergoing refits to keep them in service for years to come.
- South Jetty reconstruction — A new jetty is needed to replace the old one that was removed to remediate the waterlot and meet the space requirements of EGD users. The contract has been awarded to a joint venture between SPAL General Constructors and Fraser River Pile and Dredge and completion is scheduled for late 2019. The new jetty is to be constructed with 300 piles and 400 precast elements, and will feature large fenders, crane pads and higher load limits on the deck.
- Main transmission line replacement — EGD is working with BC Hydro to construct and install a new high voltage transmission line from the Esquimalt Sub-station to the Esquimalt Graving Dock. This will result in a dedicated electrical supply for the facility that can be further upgraded in the future. This project is scheduled for completion by spring 2020.
- Replacement of the North Landing Wharf Sub-station — The purpose of this project is to replace the substation that supplies power to parts of EGD west and the North Landing Wharf. The project will include underground duct banks, new high and low voltage transformers and all new power kiosks along the length of the wharf.
- Lastly, Bingham noted that a new 16-tonne pick-and-carry Ormig Crane had been purchased for use in the dock bottom.
Jim McFadden, Peter Bant and Tom Ferns welcomed BC Shipping News to their new yard on the Fraser River in late May. Now located at the south end of No. 4 Road in Richmond, the site boasts a 500-foot dock and a draft of nine metres at low tide. “It’s an ideal location,” said McFadden, noting its proximity to BC Ferries Fleet Maintenance Unit and more convenient access for U.S. customers and the capacity to bring in much larger vessels.
To that point, already at the dock and ready to be put back in service was a 428 x 100-foot barge for Alaska Marine Lines. The Meridian team replaced the complete ballast piping system on the barge, the first of four vessels scheduled for ballast system work with the fourth possibly getting fitted for a ballast water treatment plant (BWTP). Working closely with associates in Seattle, Glosten & Associates, they have designed and fitted all the necessary pipe fittings (sampling) with the possibility then, that all of the barges can be fully BWT compliant, should the owner’s decide. With good results from on-water testing, McFadden was really pleased with how the project proceeded. “We’ll soon be starting on the fabrication work for the pipes for the second vessel which is scheduled to come in during their slow time, sometime in September/October,” he said.
Meridian has been busy with a number of other projects this past year. In addition to providing warranty work for the two Spirit Class vessels and the three Salish Class vessels (Meridian has been qualified through ABS for LNG pipe work), they recently finished a major project on board the Queen of Surrey for steel and pipe work and are doing refit work on two Canadian Coast Guard cutters — the Pachena Bay and the McIntyre Bay, 19-metre long lifeboats — as well as the MV Asterix, the Royal Canadian Navy supply vessel that was converted from a commercial container ship as part of Project Resolve to develop an interim fleet supply vessel. Working with sub-contractors such as McRae Electric in Victoria, refit work on the MV Asterix included ladders, access points for the fueling stations, pipe cleaning, and a major shore power 3000 Kw transformer installation, including the complete cable and tray systems for half the length of the vessel. With watertight and fire bulkhead penetrations carried out.
When asked about trends, McFadden estimated business was almost double over last year. In addition to a core group of 12, he’s seen crew numbers go up as high as 20 — and up to 80 for the Asterix project. In terms of trends, he reported that they were working more and more with fibreglass in addition to steel for pipe fabrication.
Ocean Pacific Marine
Bruce Kempling reported that the Campbell River yard is enjoying a strong year, more so than last year, and believes that steady pace will continue for a number of years to come. “We’re seeing quite a bit of activity for the commercial industry in general, and more specifically, Department of Defence vessels,” he said, adding that Ocean Pacific has worked on five DND vessels over the last 10 months – two dive vessels as well as the Albatross and Black Duck from Comox and the tug Tillicum from Esquimalt, all of which underwent full refits.
Kempling welcomed the GM Penman, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation’s skimming vessel for its Transport Canada inspection and some addition work; and will be getting the Salish Sentinel in for a major sandblast, paint amd some hull work in early July.
Other news for Kempling included recent upgrades to the yard with some “rejigging of containers and workshops to provide for a more efficient space.” While not to spoil future announcements, Kempling is looking at undertaking some additions to the yard later this year, including an expanded footprint.
Looking at labour, Kempling noted that, while staffing numbers have stayed relatively steady, he has hired a new yard manager and is in the process of hiring a couple of new project managers. “It continues to be a struggle to find good people,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a lack of people and other times it is a lack of qualified people for what we need.” With that said, time spent on training — both in-house and off-site – will continue to be a priority.
Point Hope Maritime
Point Hope continues to see increased business activity from B.C. and the U.S. following the strategic investment in capacity expansion of the shipyard in 2015/2016. Spring 2019 has seen the yard consistently working with crews of up to 150 on as many as 10 vessels.
The aquaculture sector has been strongly represented in the yard with new vessels in for federal certifications and required modifications. These new vessels include new-to-B.C. technology to address and mitigate concerns that have challenged this coastal economic sector. “The opportunity to see this new technology first-hand has been very interesting for all of us,” said Riccardo Regosa, General Manager for Point Hope.
The second year of Point Hope’s five-year dry-docking agreement with BC Ferries saw four ferries in the yard in the first five months of the year. The remainder of the year remains steady with a wide range of vessels booked for maintenance, inspections and repair. The minor maritime defence vessels and auxiliary vessels from the Royal Canadian Navy together with a growing number of vessels from the Canadian Coast Guard represent an important part of the shipyard’s workload. News from the federal government on Point Hope’s application to construct a graving dock is expected late summer/early fall. If successful, this will double the capacity of the burgeoning shipyard and allow Point Hope to welcome larger vessels to Victoria Harbour.
In anticipation of this growth, skills development and attracting new employees continues to be a priority. “We introduced an apprenticeship coach last year who is working across all the Ralmax Group companies providing new employees with opportunities to try out different trades and self-select their desired training,” said Regosa, adding that in this role, the coach also communicates opportunities for more training or assistance that will help to improve their skills and grow with the company. “This hands-on approach is working very well to date and currently we have 15 apprentices in the shipyard. We continue to seek out employment and training opportunities with our local First Nation communities and have introduced a dedicated program to increase the number of Indigenous apprentices.”
One of the yard’s primary employment goals last year was to attract more women to join Point Hope and Regosa reported on early success with several very talented women now pursuing apprenticeships with us in the yard. “What we hear most often is that we have a positive and supportive work culture which is proving to be a great advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining good people.”
Seaspan’s Vancouver Drydock
Paul Hebson, Vice President and General Manager, reported that overall, activity in 2019 is slightly higher than it was in 2018. He expects a busier summer this year as the Pacific Northwest market remains buoyant.
For work at the Drydock, first quarter activities were dominated by the completion of the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier refit which included upgraded bow thrusters and fully refurbished tail liners. “By the end of the first half of the year, we expect we will have docked 25 vessels,” Hebson said.
In April, VDC worked with the Port of Vancouver to berth the 291-metre (957 foot) Pan Acacia alongside the Panamax dock for substantial steel repairs. This was first Cape Size vessel to berth at Vancouver Drydock for repairs.
Looking further forward, two ballast water treatment system installations are in the planning stages for the Atlantic Raven and the DBL 185, along with dockings for Seaspan Marine, Seaspan Ferries, Vancouver Pile Driving, Kirby and Harley Marine — all before the fish boat and ferry season starts later in the year.
With staffing levels remaining steady at about 200 tradespeople, Hebson noted that plans are already in the works to welcome the Seabourn Sojourn in 2020.
Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards
With the National Shipbuilding Strategy well under way, Tim Page, Vice President, Government Relations for Seaspan Shipyards, summed up current activity by noting: “We are meeting our commitments to the Government of Canada; we are building ships for Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy; we are hiring and training the next generation of shipbuilders; and we are generating economic activity across the country through an ever-expanding supply chain.”
With the first Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel, the future Sir John Franklin, almost ready for delivery to the CCG in Victoria, Seaspan celebrated the launch of the second OFSV, the future Capt Jacques Cartier, on June 5th. Right behind the Cartier, guests at the event were able to see significant progress made on the third OFSV, the future John Cabot, which was already in the erection berth. “If you recall last year, that spot was empty,” said Page. “We are months ahead of where we were between the first and second vessels, demonstrating the lessons learned and efficiencies gained for follow-on ships.”
All three OFSVs will have multi-mission capabilities and include scientific labs, acoustic survey equipment, ice-strengthened hulls. They will be capable of deploying fishing trawls up to 2,500 metres deep and are fitted with high-tech electronic trawl monitoring systems. Additional features and specs include 63.4 metres LOA, 16-metre beam and 6.15-metre draft; a maximum speed or 13 knots (with a cruising speed of eight knots); and diesel-electric propulsion.
Next in line and already under construction, the Joint Support Ship for the Canadian Navy is moving ahead well on schedule. The JSS will be the largest vessel to be built to date at the modernized yard which, as Page indicated, might be getting additional capital investments to further increase capacity and throughput.
In addition to moving through the major vessels under the NSS, Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards was recently awarded an additional 16 multi-purpose vessels for the CCG (on May 22, the Government announced 18 ships in total for the fleet’s renewal, including two Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships to be built by Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax). The ships built by Seaspan will be outfitted to accommodate light ice-breaking and offshore patrol as well as search and rescue. In total (i.e., for all 18 ships), the Government had early cost estimates in the neighbourhood of $15.7 billion.
As per Page’s initial comment, Seaspan is indeed hitting some key milestones and numbers. Employment at Vancouver Shipyards is about 1,200. Added to Victoria Shipyardsand Vancouver Drydock, Seaspan now employs over 2,300 people, including a significant number of apprentices. And, through its NSS-related work, Seaspan is enabling significant economic growth in Canada through nearly $850 million in contracts to approximately 570 Canadian companies, including nearly $380 million in contracts awarded to 425 companies based in B.C.
Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards
Half-way through a “three-year push of high volume,” Joe O’Rourke, Vice President and General Manager, describes activity at Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards as “intense…focused…and, at times, hectic but with lots of great things happening…” Indeed, last year was the first time ever that Victoria Shipyards executed over two million trade hours (not counting salaried office workers). Looking at the quick run-through of projects on the go and milestones being met, O’Rourke has every reason to be in a very good mood these days.
Starting with the Canadian Coast Guard Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels (and more details on those under Vancouver Shipyards’ update), Victoria Shipyards is undertaking the final tests and trials on the future Sir John Franklin to get it ready for delivery in late June and is expecting the second OFSV, the future Capt Jacques Cartier, before the year is out.
For the Royal Canadian Navy, O’Rourke reported that both the frigate and submarine projects continue to be core programs for the yard. “We are in final negotiations with the Government of Canada to sign an in-service contract for the remaining life of the five Canadian frigates on this coast,” he said, adding that the project represents about $3 billion in ship repair work over the next 22 years.
For the submarines, HMCS Corner Brook is currently “in the shed.” Prime contractor Babcock Canada is working to have her in the water by the end of the first quarter of next year with delivery scheduled for later in 2020. “It remains a constant program, employing about 200 tradespeople on a daily basis,” O’Rourke noted. “And once the Corner Brook is out of the shed, the next one slides right in and work begins anew.” Victoria Shipyards also has side contracts to support both HMCS Chicoutimi and HMCS Victoria, the two other submarines in the Victoria’s harbour.
While still within the scope of naval vessels, both of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s ANZAC-Class frigates are now in the yard. HMNZS TE KAHA, the first vessel to arrive (in March 2018), will be at the end of its industrial phase by October, at which time it will be moved over to the RCN’s Esquimalt facility to allow Canada to fulfill its portion of the work. HMNZS TE MANA was welcomed in March of this year and has a delivery date set for mid-2020.
Next up for O’Rourke’s report was preparation for the second evolution of work for TOTE LNG and conversion to LNG/dual fuel for the North Star and Midnight Sun. Work has been organized into four 60-day phases to match up to the slow work periods for the vessels — much of the steel work and reconfiguration of the assets of the vessel to be able to place the LNG tank are already complete.
Not forgetting that Victoria Shipyards is also popular for cruise ships, the Emerald Princess was in dock in April/May this year to have two scrubbers installed and, at the end of the cruise season, Disney Wonder and Holland America’s Noordam will come in one after the other. The Noordam is also scheduled for a two-scrubber installation. “We’re now in the teens in terms of number of scrubber installations we’ve done over the last five years,” O’Rourke said, attributing the return business to the quality of work and solid reputation built with customers.
“The strength of our organization is our staff,” O’Rourke said when asked about labour. “From the tradespeople and all the way through the various support departments, everyone is focused on being a production-driven shipyard.” Noting that the majority of work comes from return customers, he pointed to this as proof that the team continues to meet and exceed expectations.
Currently employing close to 1,100 tradespeople, O’Rourke expects this to peak at about 1,200 with work on the cruise ships in October. O’Rourke has also added about 25 new staff to the salaried workforce to help support the increased activity.
Not only has Victoria Shipyards become one of the most significant employers on Vancouver Island, they are also training a new generation of ship repair workers, employing about 110 apprentices. “About 40 per cent of our apprentices are women and there is also a significant number who come from First Nations communities,” O’Rourke said. “We’ve been really pleased with the inroads we’ve been making in attracting a more diverse workforce.”
Of special note (and more on this in the update from Esquimalt Graving Dock’s Stafford Bingham), O’Rourke was looking forward to the completion of the four-year project to replace the South Jetty at EGD. With over 1,000 feet of dock space to be ready by January next year – and Victoria Shipyards generating 85 to 90 per cent of the production value for the dock — O’Rourke was pleased to be going back to being a full-size facility.
Steady as she goes is the word from Annette Russman and Tom Warren. The tug for Gemini Marine Services — an A.G. McIwain design with C32 Cats, Twin Disc MGX 5321 DC transmission, Bracewell winch and shafts, Osborn propeller and Comar electrical components — is just about ready and will be launched in July.
Next up for Sylte is a new tug for Darryl Jones and Jones Marine. The 53-foot tug is outfitted with MTU 12V4000 engines and will feature Rolls-Royce drives. “We’ve already started construction,” said Warren, adding that expected delivery will be in July 2020, following which, another local tug company has already put a hold on space for a mid-2020 start.
Warren further noted that, while there have been one or two changes to staff, they have had no problems with finding qualified and experienced crew who continue to meet and exceed the expectations of tug owners.