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Update: BC Ferries awards Seaspan $15-million cable ferry contract
Soon it will be all hands on deck at Seaspan's North Vancouver shipyard, which now has enough work to sustain employment for many years.
"I'm ecstatic about it. It's fantastic. The more work that we can get in the shipyard the better it is for everybody in the community," said Percy Darbyson, business manager for Allied Shipbuilders Union Local 506.
He was reacting to the news that BC Ferries has awarded Seaspan a $15-million contract for the construction of a new cable ferry.
Last fall, it was announced the local shipyard would assemble another 10 non-combat vessels — bringing the total number of ships to be built in North Van to 17 — as part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.
The industry boom has compelled Seaspan to put in $200-million worth of upgrades, which will come online in October.
"With the new facility in North Vancouver, we were kind of hoping that [cable ferry contract] was going to happen, along with the NSPS program — that's about to start in October," said Darbyson. "It's certainly going to keep North Vancouver and Seaspan busy."
Construction on the 78.5-metre cable ferry, which will run between Buckley Bay and Denman Island, will start in June, with delivery of the vessel slated for early 2015.
"Well this announcement today is a great opportunity for us to sustain employment for about 60 people here at Vancouver Shipyards. As they come off of other projects they will go onto this cable ferry," Seaspan Shipyard president Brian Carter told The Outlook.
Currently, Seaspan employs 300 people, 150 of whom are office staff. The other 150 shipyard employees work as shipfitters, mechanics, welders, pipefitters, electricians, carpenters and painters.
"And we are continuing to grow the office staff to get ready for the work we are going to do under the national shipbuilding procurement strategy starting in October," said Carter, adding the production force will incrementally reach 1,000 workers by 2016.
Today Seaspan concurrently announced its decision to withdraw from BC Ferries’ request for proposals process to build three new intermediate class vessels.
That's because the local shipyard will soon be at capacity, as it concentrates its efforts on the federal shipbuilding contract.
"Trying to figure out where they are going to put these vessels — it's a real good problem to have," chuckles Darbyson.
In the late 2000s, with no projects in the pipeline and an economy in crisis, workers at the North Van shipyard faced an uncertain future.
"We thought they were going to close up," said Darbyson.
Carter spoke to the local economic spinoff that today's announcement and the other shipbuilding contracts brings.
"For every dollar of shipbuilding revenue that we receive, we think the induced economic impact is about three dollars. So it's a very nice spinoff there," said Carter.
Darbyson confirms some shipyard workers spend part of their paycheck locally.
"A lot of the guys stop in at the Pemberton Pub, or some of the other spots in North Vancouver," said Darbyson.