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Opinion: Seaspan’s CEO on the economic and social benefits of creating a Canadian shipbuilding industry

John McCarthy, CEO of Seaspan Shipyards, discusses Seaspan Shipyards’ contribution to local and national GDP
Keel laying ceremony.

Seaspan has been a part of the economic and social fabric of the North Shore for more than a century. Coastal communities are the heart of our business and we’re proud to be building world-class ships and providing essential ship repair and maintenance services right here in North Vancouver.

We have been given the extraordinary opportunity to revitalize Canada’s shipbuilding industry through innovation, new technologies and a highly skilled workforce. We are in the midst of harnessing the full economic and social potential of the shipbuilding program and creating tangible benefits for the communities where we live and work.

As part of our commitment to transparency and accountability, we recently engaged Deloitte Canada to assess Seaspan’s socio-economic contributions over the past decade as a result of our shipbuilding activities related to the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS), as well as our vessel maintenance operations.

Joint Support Ship and Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel under construction at Vancouver Shipyards. Photo by Seaspan Shipyards

With two of our shipyards based out of North Vancouver, our local impact runs deep – Seaspan’s NSS-related shipbuilding activities together with repair, refit and maintenance activities have contributed $2.3 billion to GDP, 3,372 annual jobs and $71 million in government revenues in North Vancouver during the period from 2012-2022. These numbers include direct, indirect and induced economic contributions.

Looking at our impact on the national level, Seaspan has contributed $5.7 billion to Canada’s GDP, 7,330 annual jobs, $3.8 billion in labour income and $1.4 billion in government revenues. Over the next 12 years, these activities are forecasted to contribute an additional $20.7 billion to GDP and $5.9 billion in government revenues, while sustaining or creating about 11,000 jobs annually and generating more than $13 billion in labour income. In B.C. alone, Seaspan Shipyards will provide more than $2 billion in provincial and municipal tax revenue during this period.

These benefits include billions of dollars in contracts to more than 700 Canadian suppliers, most of which are small and medium-sized businesses. They, in turn, have been able to grow and reinvest in research and development, new technologies, infrastructure and skills development. And we’re proud of the fact that Seaspan is a CCAB Aboriginal Procurement Champion, a designation focused on supporting the growth of Indigenous businesses.

These are big numbers, but they only tell part of the story. An important legacy for Seaspan will be leading marine innovation and technological advancements, developing B.C.’s skilled workforce and supporting local communities. The most recent example is from October 2023, when the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, in conjunction with Seaspan and Southern Railway of British Columbia, donated $5.5 million to the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) to deliver trades training to high school students.

We will continue to invest in modern technology and manufacturing processes and develop new solutions to increase sustainability and reduce the environmental impact of our operations and our customer’s vessels. 

We’re supporting a new generation of shipbuilders and marine experts, many of which call the North Shore home. Seaspan Shipyards is currently hiring hundreds of skilled trades workers in Metro Vancouver and cultivating a pipeline of top marine talent for decades to come. 

Seaspan is delivering on the promise of ships built in Canada, by Canadians. Over the next 25 years, we will build and deliver 20 large, complex vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard, in addition to the three already delivered to the Coast Guard.

Joint Support Ship. Photo by Heath Moffatt

We have a proud history of giving back to our local communities. Seaspan, along with our ownership, has provided more than $18.5 million in local donations since 2013. Whether it’s protecting and enhancing habitat at the MacKay Creek Estuary, supporting festivals or investing in education initiatives, Seaspan is here to help enrich the people and places that make up the North Shore.

Our seas and oceans are the drivers of our economy and provide us with a wealth of opportunity. We now have an internationally competitive, high-value shipbuilding industry on the North Shore. As we expand and enhance our operations, our mission remains clear: deliver long-term, sustainable value to our employees, customers, communities and all we serve.

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John McCarthy

Chief Executive Officer, Seaspan Shipyards