The order books at Seaspan's North Vancouver shipyard got a lot longer Monday when the federal government announced up to 10 more non-combat Canadian Coast Guard vessels worth $3.3 billion will be built there.
Federal ministers and Seaspan management made the announcement before a crowd of shipyard workers.
Planning is now underway to build up to five 65-metre medium endurance multi-tasked vessels and up to five 75-metre offshore patrol vessels.
These are in addition to the $8-billion government contract Seaspan won in 2011 to build a polar icebreaker, three offshore fisheries science vessels, an offshore oceanographic ship and two support ships.
Speaking at the announcement, Public Works Minister Diane Finley underscored what contracts would mean for local employment.
"This means additional years of work for Seaspan and its employees. That, ladies and gentlemen, represents a lot of good, stable jobs for Canadians, particularly here in B.C.," she said. "Even better - rather than being a flash in the pan, it is at last bringing some long-term stability to this industry.. .. The boom and bust cycles that have long plagued the Canadian shipbuilding industry are already becoming a thing of the past."
Seaspan has been preparing for the work with a $200-million investment in infrastructure at its North Vancouver property that includes six new buildings and a 300-tonne gantry crane.
The modernization project, made possible through the government contract, will allow Seaspan to compete for private sector shipbuilding contracts once the last coast guard ship has sailed, according to Brian Carter, Seaspan president.
Rather than having to hire an even larger complement of new workers, Monday's announcement means the Seapan employees of today and the new hires that will come as a result of the initial contract will have steady work for even longer.
"Today's exciting news allows us to go off and work with the coast guard and understand the timing in detail. Our workforce, with the backlog we have, is going to grow from where it is today (fewer than 200) to about 1,000 people in the next three or four years," he said.
"These vessels will just sustain that level of employment for years to come once we start construction."
The medium endurance multi-tasked vessels will be mainly used for the "deployment, recovery and maintenance and aids to navigation," according to the government, but will also be capable for use in search and rescue, fisheries management and environmental response.
The patrol vessels, which are large enough to stay at sea for up to six weeks, will be used mainly for fisheries protection "both in Canadian waters and on the high seas," Finley said, as well as for search and rescue navigational support, environmental response and maritime security.
Construction on the first fisheries science vessels is expected to start in 2014.
© Copyright 2013