Alberni to benefit from Seaspan ship-building award

Alberni could see 20 new jobs as a result the $8-billion federal ship-building contract awarded to Seaspan Marine Corp.

Port Alberni could see the creation of up to 20 new jobs as a result of the $8-billion federal ship-building contract that was awarded to North Vancouver firm Seaspan Marine Corp. on Wednesday.

The contract to build five coast guard ships, three navy support ships and an ice breaker vessel was awarded to Seaspan in a federal announcement made on Wednesday afternoon.

The heftier $25-billion combat-vessel contract went to Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding.

The third bidder — Davie Shipyard of Quebec  —  came away empty handed.

Local firm Alberni Engineering is partnered with Nanaimo Ship Yard Group, which was part of Seaspan’s bid as a sub-contractor.

Seaspan plans to do the bulk of the shipbuilding at its Vancouver yard beginning late 2012, early 2013, while 15 to 20 per cent of the workload will fall to Victoria Shipyards.

Alberni won’t be building any of the new ships per se, but will benefit from trickle down work.

Seaspan already repairs and maintains a fleet of ships at its facilities but will have to make room in their yards to undertake the new work.

“Their traditional work will go to the smaller yards and we’ll likely pick up some of it,” Alberni Engineering manager Steve Dunagan said.

“I can see some things start to happen in the new year.”

The new work will create at least 20 new machining and fabricating jobs at Alberni Engineering. The company is already operating at capacity and further apprenticeships will be in order.

“We’ve already got a couple of apprentices and we’ll likely have more now,” Dunagan said.

Alberni Engineering has extensive experience in the shipbuilding and maintenance business. Most recently, it built two 50-foot aluminum pollution response vessels that will be used by the Canadian Coat Guard in Richmond and Prince Rupert. That particular contract created about 10 full-time temporary jobs, Dunagan said.

The city supported Seaspan’s bid with a letter of support to the federal government. “The mayor of Nanaimo and I are sending a letter to Seaspan congratulating them and reminding them of our support,” Port Alberni Mayor Ken McRae said.

The Valley could see a boon similar to that when the former fast ferries were built. “A lot of work came here then and I hope we see the same thing happen now,” McRae said.

The work is a win for B.C. since it will inject billions of dollars into the economy and create an average of 4,000 jobs over the next eight years, according to Seaspan.

“It tells us that Canada works, so B.C. can get to work,” Premier Christy Clark said at a meeting of the B.C. Liberal caucus.

“Eight billion dollars spent on shipbuilding, on the suppliers, $8 billion spent throughout the economy, and not just British Columbia’s economy.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

— With files from the Goldstream News Gazette