Heddle Shipyards, operators of the Port Weller Drydocks, has signed a multi-year, multi-million-dollar agreement to fabricate components for three ships now under construction at a British Columbia shipyard.
“This is a great day for Ontario shipyards,” says Ted Kirkpatrick, director of business development and government relations for Heddle. “We intend the work to be spread as evenly as possible between our facilities.”
Heddle operates shipyards in Hamilton, St. Catharines and Thunder Bay, as well as Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Two of the ships have been commissioned by the Royal Canadian Navy. The third, an offshore oceanographic science vessel, is being built for the Canadian Coast Guard.
The work, part of a partnership with Seaspan Shipyard of Vancouver, is expected to ramp up in early 2021.
“Two big things are happening,” said Kirkpatrick. “The work includes the fabrication of tertiary steel components — ladders, stairs, gratings and handrails — as well as a modular package that will be built in Ontario and transported complete, for installation in the ships under construction in Vancouver.”
“A module is an internal section of the ship. It’s a big piece of the inside. When it leaves our facilities it will be completely outfitted with pipes, electrical components, machinery. They lower them into the ship and they just click together.”
The new agreement is expected to employ at least 50 workers company-wide.
Kirkpatrick said the contract provides more predictability for Heddle’s business.
“It’s long-term,” he said. “Work that we can build the workforce around. The team will include people who will be more completely employed during our quieter periods and new people we will be hiring.”
The contract also signals that Heddle will play an increasing role in the national shipbuilding strategy, a long-term project to renew Canada's federal fleet of combat and non-combat vessels.
Heddle is also partnering with Seaspan Shipyard to bid on the construction of the polar icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard.
“If we win that, it will be a significant amount of work. More than all the package of work we’re currently doing.”
“It’s pretty amazing. Things really seem to be moving in the right direction.”
In 2017, Heddle entered a long-term lease with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, which manages and operates the Canadian assets of the Seaway on behalf of the federal government.
The company was founded just over 30 years ago in Hamilton and has grown to be the largest vessel services and drydock company in Canada.