Commercial maritime business is booming in Port Alberni, and Canadian Maritime Engineering is one of the companies leading the way.
“I would say there’s as much interest as there’s ever been, maybe even a little bit more” on the city’s waterfront, says Steve Dunagan, in charge of business development for CME.
Port Alberni is one of three locations CME has on Vancouver Island: there is an office in Victoria and they have taken over the former Nanaimo Shipyard. In Port Alberni, CME has three sites: the original Bird Street location across from the Port Alberni Train Station, Shed 2 on the Port Alberni Port Authority’s Harbour Road property, and a large-vessel manufacturing facility on Plywood Road at Canal Beach.
“We are currently at just about 100 employees for this location in Port Alberni,” said Dunagan. “We are continuing to hire; we’re looking to get another 20-40 people.”
Canadian Maritime Engineering has cultivated a relationship with North Island College (NIC) that will see a number of welding students join the company after graduation.
Groups of four to six students will begin training with CME this summer; another NIC welding cohort begins at the end of August with the prospect of more students next year.
The partnership is a win-win: NIC students gain on-the-job experience, while CME will have people to work on some of the numerous projects they have on the go at any one time.
The engineering and manufacturing company has a number of contracts underway, both at Shed 2 on Harbour Road as well as Canal Beach. The company is working on its largest contract ever for the oil and gas industry, with eight new builds of ice-capable boats destined for northern Alberta.
“We also have a contract in hand and are about halfway through construction of eight to 10 aluminum oil recovery barges for the Canadian Coast Guard,” Dunagan said. The first two were moved outside the Canal Beach building at the end of May.
They are also building an 11-metre, self-propelled buoy recovery barge for the Canadian Coast Guard.
Canadian Maritime Engineering has three new dozer work boats underway for forestry companies within B.C. as well as seven, 18-foot superwinders under construction for local logging companies or for individual sale.
The company has been so busy they are looking at expanding their buildings in Port Alberni, says Dunagan. “We’re expanding both locations with more buildings. You’ll see a new 80-foot-by-45-foot building going up at Canal Beach. We’re putting up more tent-style buildings behind Shed 2 for outfitting and painting.”
More development is planned for the Canal Beach site: CME is working with Fisheries and Oceans and other government agencies for approval to install a travel lift.
“It would replace our lifts (at the Bird Street site). The travel lift would be capable of (handling) about 450 tonnes, which is equal to the biggest boat we could haul here, but down there we could haul multiple boats.
“The long-term goal would be to replace this aging infrastructure with something more modern down at Canal Beach.”