Canadian Maritime Engineering crew members pull the 85-foot catamaran out of the building at APD mill and flip it right side up using a crane on Jan. 23. SONJA DRINKWATER PHOTO

Alberni company builds their largest vessel yet

Canadian Maritime Engineering is building an 85-foot aluminum catamaran for a Prince Rupert company

Canadian Maritime Engineering of Port Alberni is building an 85-foot catamaran for the Prince Rupert tourism operator West Coast Launch—the largest vessel CME has built.

“The boat will run between Prince Rupert and Kitimat for a contact [West Coast Launch] have there,” said Steve Dunagan, general manager at CME. “This is the largest aluminum vessel that we’ve built here, I would say probably ever.”

Dunagan said prior to the catamaran, called the Aurora, the biggest aluminum boat they built was probably about 50 feet and the largest boat built in steel was about 62 feet.

Crews began working on the Aurora last March and still have several months left until it’s complete. Construction is taking place at APD mill on the dock in one of the paper sheds. The boat is built upside down to begin with and once it’s plated the boat is pulled out of the building on tracks, and using a crane is flipped over and pulled back into the building.

“Now it’s right side up and we’re starting to build the super structure. That will happen for the next several months until its finished,” Dunagan said.

The catamaran is an Incat Crowther design—an Australian company with offices in the United States—has two 750 horsepower Volvo engines and is propeller driven.

Gord Yelland, engineering technologist with CME, said the Aurora is probably one of the more challenging boats to build.

“The logistics are a little more challenging because we’re bringing components in from literally all over the world. The propellers and shafts came from England, the seats are coming from Australia, the engines came from Sweden and the gensets are from the U.S., so there’s a lot more international involvement,” Yelland said.

“Plus Transport Canada has to sign off on a fair bit of it so compared to the standard type of boats that we’ve built they don’t necessarily need that.”

Dunagan said there’s not a lot of boat builders in B.C. that do the type of work CME does.

“The pool is fairly small,” he said. “Maybe half a dozen to eight people who would attempt it (building the 85-foot catamaran). Right now the business is busy for boat construction so the number of available slots to build boats is quite slow.”

He added that CME is building boats at a rate they’ve never seen before.

“I’ve been here for about 21 or 22 years and this is the busiest it’s been in the boat building world for us in a long time,” Dunagan said.

Although he wasn’t exactly sure what to attribute the building boom to, Dunagan said it may have something to do with vessels reaching the end of their life.

“It could be the age of the vessels…there might have been a building boom maybe 25 years ago and now we’re seeing those ones going out of service and new boats having to come into service,” he said. “We’re not sure, we just hope it keeps going.”

Doug Davis, owner of West Coast Launch said they decided to go with CME for the build because of pricing and because they seemed customer oriented.

“I was looking for somebody that I felt confident with and they seemed to have the confidence they could do the job,” Davis said. “As far as the quality of the build, the quality looks good.”

Davis said the Aurora is a “very flexible boat and can do a lot of different things” but will be used as transportation to Rio Tinto in Kitimat and for tourism operations.