By R. Bruce Striegler

British Columbia’s 64-year old family-owned shipyard, Allied Shipbuilders has new ownership. Effective February 1, 2012, Jim and Malcolm McLaren sold their majority interest to Allied’s Vice-President Chuck Ko.

Hired by the company’s founder T.A. McLaren in 1980, Mr. Ko is a registered professional engineer in naval architecture and a Member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. He graduated from British Columbia’s Institute of Technology and began with the company as a design draftsman. Mr. Ko held the position of technical manager, later becoming vice-president of operations. In the four years prior to his ownership he managed projects valued at more than $50 million for Allied Shipbuilders.

Announcing the sale, outgoing president Malcolm McLaren said, “Chuck has been with Allied for 31 years. He trained directly under my father and has had an active role in every major project we’ve handled since 1980. My father believed that a shipbuilding and repair operation should be run by someone with a lot of hands-on experience, and we don’t want that to change.”

The company has been part of B.C.’s shipbuilding scene since its 1948 founding by T.A, McLaren. It is the second largest privately held shipbuilding company in B.C., behind the Washington Marine Group, owner of SeaSpan’s Vancouver Shipyards. In its 60-years of continuous operation, Allied has built 259 vessels, including tugs, icebreakers, fishing and excursion boats. The shipyard has also fabricated 25 vessels for the off-shore oil industry, and is known for its expertise in delivering these boats to remote locations.

From its 10-acre site in North Vancouver, Allied has the capacity to construct vessels up to 400 feet in length and up to 10,000 dead weight tons. The company provides ship repair and engineering services to the commercial marine industry on the West Coast, docking to 2,000 tons on three floating drydocks and covered marine ways with 29 feet by 120 feet capacity.

Allied Shipbuilders client list is impressive and includes the RCMP, Esso Resources, Imperial Oil, the Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Navy, Hooker Chemicals and numerous forest products companies. In the mid-1980’s Allied built a number of vessels for BC Ferries including the 51.55-metre Island Princess and the 45.60-metre Quadra Queen II. In 1985, BC Ferries purchased the 648-ton MV John Atlantic Burr, which had operated on Utah’s Lake Powell. The vessel was cut into four sections and transported by truck to B.C., where Allied Shipbuilders modified and enlarged in what they called “a newbuild using existing components” to increase the capacity of the newly named MV Kruper from 26 to 35 cars.

Built in the early 1990’s by a consortium that included Allied Shipbuilders the 167.5-metre Spirit of Vancouver and sister Spirit of Vancouver Island were the largest ships built in B.C. With passenger capacities of 2,052 and 470 vehicles, both vessels currently operate on the busy Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay route

A family of shipbuilders

On the site where today the 2011 Vancouver Winter Olympics athlete’s village stands, J. Couglan & Sons shipyard had operated during World War I.  By the time of the Second World War, the company had become West Coast Shipbuilders, and Thomas Arthur “T.A” McLaren followed his father “W.D” McLaren now managing director of the new company. West Coast Shipbuilders launched about 55 merchant vessels by the end of the Second World War and began to construct fuel barges for service on the Mackenzie River to the Arctic. By then T.A. McLaren had become shipyard manager.

In 1948, T.A. McLaren conceived his own small shipbuilding company, called Allied Builders Ltd. They built small steel tugs at a time when wood was the common material. In 1961, the company became Allied Shipbuilders and expanded into ship repairs with the acquisition of Burrard Shipyard and Marine Ways. In 1967, Allied left downtown Vancouver on False Creek, moving across Burrard Inlet to the developing docklands in North Vancouver, where they have remained.

T.A. McLaren had three sons, James, Douglas and Malcolm who continued to own and manage the Allied Shipbuilders until the close of sale of to Chuck Ko. Jim McLaren retired and Malcolm has left the business due to health reasons. The third son, Douglas, and his three sons remain with Allied Shipbuilders.