By Mark Cardwell
To hear Hank Bekkering tell it, ship repair is a difficult business to be in. That said, however, he considers repairs to be a more constant source of work for shipyards than newbuild contracts. “Ships always need some work done on them,” said Bekkering, General Manager of Point Hope Maritime in Victoria, B.C. “So you can rely on doing repairs or maintenance of some kind year round.” That has certainly been the case of late at the 140-year-old yard.
According to Bekkering, some three dozen ships have put in for repairs at his facility in 2013. The biggest – HMCS Brandon, part of the West Coast fleet of Canada’s MCDVs – underwent a 5-year maintenance package, which included work on the hull, sea valves and some pipe repairs. Currently, the yard is putting the finishing touches on the life extension of Tachek, a 50-metre-long, 807-tonne car and passenger ferry that runs the Denman Island-Hornby Island route for B.C. Ferries.
“Things have been pretty steady for us,” said Bekkering, an Alberta native and naval engineer who worked as a projects manager and estimator at several yards along the Canadian and U.S. coasts before joining Point Hope Maritime in 2006. By then the shipyard’s owner, the Ian Maxwell-led Ralmax Group, which had brought the yard out of bankruptcy in 2003, was in the midst of giving the yard a refit of historic proportions. The Ian Maxwell-led Ralmax Group also exploits a recycling centre, a demolition business, and an engineering firm on the same 3.7-hectare site. In addition to fixing up the existing facilities, which include a floating drydock, a marine railway, and a 15,000-square-foot, climate-controlled assembly shed for specialized steel and aluminum fabrication, the new owners built new spur lines and railways, and re-equipped the shipyard’s machine shop. The result is a full service shipyard, strategically located in the harbour of Victoria, that can handle maintenance and refits, vessel and system repairs for steel, aluminum, fibreglass or wood, aluminum and steel welding, sandblasting, coatings, and electrical work.
“We’re looking at adding one or two more spur lines, which would increase our ship-taking capacity,” said Bekkering. “As West Coast shipyards go, we’re very well equipped and we have highly skilled and experienced crews (and) shipwrights.”
He added that Point Hope Maritime would be interested in getting some NSPS subcontracting work from Seaspan, which won the $8-billion, non-combat ship contract in 2010, and operates the biggest yard in the Victoria area – to wit the Navy yard in Esquimalt.
“We’re waiting to see how that all plays out,” said Bekkering. “The problem is that Seaspan is not saying anything, so we don’t know what their plans are.” He added that, whatever the outcome, Point Hope Maritime is already a winner from all the newbuild contracts being handed out by the federal government, as well as increased spending in the training of skilled tradesmen on the West Coast. “It’s nice to see the Navy and the Coast Guard getting all these new vessels,” said Bekkering. “It’s good for the shipbuilding industry as a whole, and it’s good for yards like ours too, because all these new ships are going to need to come out of the water every three or four years, and we’ll be ready to accommodate them.”