Seaspan wins contract for new icebreaker, expected to benefit the island’s shipping industry
Victoria shipyards and island-based marine suppliers are expected to reap economic benefits after Seaspan Shipyards was awarded a contract for one of Canada’s new heavy-duty icebreakers.
“We have a pretty rich and skilled supply chain community on the Island and in Victoria – all the boats stand up when you have a massive program like the Polar Icebreaker,” said Amy MacLeod, vice president of general affairs of Vancouver-based Seaspan. “The opportunities are not just for Seaspan, they are for the marine industry.”
MacLeod said the massive project will require the time, talent, products and services of hundreds of companies over several years and is expected to provide continued employment to approximately 1,400 people.
Most of the work will be done at the Seaspan Shipyard in North Vancouver, which has been specially designed for the Polar Icebreaker Project.
Liberal ministers announced Thursday that the government has doubled the number of heavy icebreakers it will build over the next decade, with Quebec-based Seaspan and Chantier Davie each receiving one.
The surprise announcement followed nearly two years of questions – and intense pressure from shipyards – about Ottawa’s plans for the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker.
First announced by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper in 2008 and awarded to Seaspan in October 2011, the Diefenbaker was one of seven ships built by the Vancouver Shipyard as part of the multi-billion dollar shipbuilding plan. Ottawa dollars.
The Diefenbaker was arguably the crown jewel of the package. Originally budgeted at $ 721 million, the icebreaker was to be delivered by 2017 and replace the Coast Guard flagship, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.
But scheduling conflicts, technical glitches, and other issues scuttled the schedule and budget – which was increased to $ 1.3 billion in 2013 – before the Trudeau government quietly took the ship off the books. Seaspan orders in August 2019.
Seaspan and Davie subsequently engaged in fierce lobbying to secure the work. In the end, the Liberals gave everyone a new icebreaker to build.
Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan defended the decision to divide the work between the two shipyards as a cautious move given the urgent need to launch the two vessels as soon as possible.
The St. Lawrence is expected to be withdrawn in 2030, while the Coast Guard’s other heavy icebreaker, the CCGS Terry Fox, will follow in 2032.
“To speed up this work, the two polar icebreakers will be built at the same time in two different Canadian shipyards,” Jordan said.
The decision will almost certainly come at a high price. The federal government has already pointed out the savings that come with having a shipyard working on multiple models of the same ship, with the first ship in a class costing much more and taking much longer than subsequent ones.
Liberal ministers on Thursday repeatedly refused to provide a cost estimate or budget for the two icebreakers, saying that information would be provided in a timely manner.
Senior officials, speaking at a briefing provided on condition of anonymity, however acknowledged that the cost will exceed the previous estimate of $ 1.3 billion for the Diefenbaker alone.
“As the northern waterways become more accessible, some countries are trying to encroach on our sovereignty by signaling their economic interest in a region that may be rich in untapped natural resources,” said Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.
“So we just can’t put a price on Canada’s value to maintain its presence in the Arctic.
Mr MacLeod, of Seaspan, said the first thing to do is get the project under contract, which will take some time, but the North Vancouver shipyard is ready to go at any time.
“We had this vessel built into our production schedule and it was still built into it,” she said. “We are ready to go.”
The British Columbia Marine Industries Association said the news was a positive development for the industry.
“The construction of this vessel will create approximately 300 jobs at the shipyard and support thousands of jobs in a supply chain that already exceeds 650 companies in Canada,” Executive Director Alex Reuben said in a statement. “This is another positive development in an ever-growing industrial marine capacity and capability in British Columbia.
The Business Council of BC could not quantify the effect the project might have, but said the ripple effect would necessarily be huge.
“Projects of this scale are having a positive impact on the economy across the province by providing jobs for the hundreds of workers who will work on the construction until its completion,” said spokesperson Colin Wong in a statement. “This will be positive as British Columbia slowly emerges from the pandemic recession.”
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