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Seaspan Shipyards: Building on a legacy more than 100 years in the making

The long-standing shipbuilding company reflects on its history while looking ahead to the future
This year, Seaspan’s Vancouver Drydock undertook the most complex ship modernization project in its history CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s Vessel Life Extension.

Over the past century, shipbuilding and ship repair have been mainstays on the North Shore. Whether you are just passing through, a newcomer to the area or your family has lived here for generations, the significance of the maritime industry in North Vancouver is evident. From the historical shipbuilding photography exhibitions currently on display at MONOVA to the newly revitalized – and aptly named – Shipyards District, shipbuilding continues to significantly influence our community and the broader region.

Seaspan Shipyards is doing its best to continue that legacy. 

This year, Seaspan is excited to be launching two ships under the National Shipbuilding Strategy, the first time Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards has had the opportunity to launch multiple vessels in the same year. The first, slated for mid-August, will be the Canadian Coast Guard’s new Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (OOSV). This ship will be the Coast Guard’s largest dedicated science vessel, granting increased capability and capacity to support ocean science missions on Canada’s East Coast. 

The second launch, slated for later this year, will be the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Protecteur, the longest naval vessel ever constructed in Canada, and one of two Joint Support Ships (JSS) Seaspan is building for the Royal Canadian Navy. These vessels will provide support and supplies like fuel, food or spare parts to other Royal Canadian Navy and allied ships while at sea.

A lasting history in North Vancouver

The history of shipbuilding in North Vancouver dates back generations. Photo via: MONOVA.

Although this is the first multi-ship launch year at Seaspan Vancouver Shipyards, ship launches have long been a part of our proud, waterfront history. During WWII, the two shipyards on the North Shore at the time, Burrard Dry Dock Company and North Van Ship Repairs, built nearly half of Canada’s total output of 354 vessels during wartime and further solidified North Vancouver as a national leader in shipbuilding — a reputation which continues in 2024.  

Also in North Vancouver, right in the heart of the Shipyards District, Seaspan has its Vancouver Drydock facility, where ship repair and maintenance are performed on everything from barges to ferries and cruise ships. This year, the shipyard undertook the most complex ship modernization project in its history, CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s Vessel Life Extension, which began in November 2023 and is planned to wrap up in June 2024. 

Those in the area will recognize the familiar red and white colour scheme of the Canadian Coast Guard’s vessels and might have even seen this ship in or alongside the drydock, with the accompanying flurry of non-stop activity surrounding it. This project involved over 100 dedicated tradespeople working on the vessel each day and included replacing all 3 of the ship’s 42-tonne engines.

Looking ahead by looking back 

The National Shipbuilding Strategy will be the first time Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards has had the opportunity to launch multiple vessels in the same year. Photo via: Seaspan.

Seaspan’s work on the North Shore is not only helping to maintain the legacy started by generations before us. It is also revitalizing shipbuilding here in British Columbia on the strategic west coast of Canada. 

And the resurgence of both shipbuilding and ship repair has paid dividends for the local and provincial economies. Between 2012 and 2022, Seaspan’s two shipyards in North Vancouver have created or sustained more than 3,000 jobs annually and paid $71M in municipal taxes. Across British Columbia, Seaspan Shipyards’ activities have contributed $4.3B to B.C.’s GDP, with another $20B+ projected through 2035 while sustaining or creating more than 8,000 jobs annually during that time.   

Gone for a period of time, but never forgotten, Seaspan is now rebuilding a sustainable, competitive shipbuilding industry right here on the North Shore, which will be home to many future generations of shipbuilders and marine experts. With the two ship launches this year, and even more on the horizon, shipbuilding is back in North Vancouver, and this time it’s here to stay. 

To learn more about Seaspan, visit