New momentum on the west coast [CS19D2]

30 May 2019

Prime minister Justin Trudeau's announcement last week that Seaspan Shipyards will build 16 new Multi-Purpose Vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard brings new momentum to Canada's two-coast strategy. As builder of the combat ship portion of Canada's national shipbuilding strategy, east coast-based Irving Shipbuilding's Halifax yard on the Atlantic coast naturally gets most of the attention.

However, 2,300 employees at Seaspan Shipyards - many of whom work at its integrated shipbuilding and maintenance facilities in Vancouver and Victoria on the Pacific Coast - have been quietly beavering away building non-combat vessels.

The company continues to repair and maintain Royal Canadian Navy Victoria-class submarines and Halifax-class frigates.

Seaspan's three-ship Offshore Fisheries and Science Vessel construction programme is also proceeding apace. The first two ships are slated to be delivered later this year and the third is under construction. Company officials say Seaspan continues to build efficiencies as the initiative progresses. These include a 27 per cent productivity increase on the second ship and a further 30 per cent on the third.

This provides great news both on the jobs and regional benefits fronts. Seaspan officials claim to have awarded more than C$870 million in contracts to 540 Canadian suppliers across the country, to have trained more than 200 apprentices and coached 75 intern engineers, architects, programme managers, finance analysts and estimators, and ships' planners during the past year.

Yet Seaspan officials are far from satisfied. The company continues to invest in its Vancouver shipyard to build capacity for current and anticipated future work.

Seaspan officials also worry about the potential effects of Trudeau's announcement that the government is introducing a third shipyard - presumably Davie Shipbuilding of Levis, Quebec - into its national strategy.

Canada's joint support ship programme remains Seaspan's biggest hope. Company officials said it has begun work on 18 blocks on the programme and is planning to start work on a further 27.

However the real action will only begin once a formal contract is signed, which Seaspan officials hope will take place in the spring of 2020.

(340 words)