by Mark Cardwell
The year is only two months old, but it’s already shaping up to be a banner one for Canada’s oldest and biggest shipyards. In late February, a keel laying ceremony was held at the Davie yard in Lévis, Quebec to mark the beginning of hull assembly for the first of two sisterships being built for the provincial Société des traversiers du Québec (STQ).
Hailed as the first LNG-propelled ferries to be built in North America, the $125-million-apiece vessels are both scheduled for delivery over the next 12 months. “It’s a milestone,” Alex Vicefield, Chief Executive Officer of Davie’s Monaco-based parent company Inocea (www.inocea.com), said about the ceremony. “I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made.”
A week earlier, Davie was also named Shipyard of the Year at Lloyd’s List’s annual North American Maritime Awards cermony in Houston. A panel of judges from the marine industry reportedly picked Davie (over American naval shipbuilder General Dynamics NASSCO, the runner-up) for its “ability to deliver quality vessels on time, to meet the needs of all stakeholders and to showcase innovative designs while adhering to high environmental standards.”
Other noteworthy events at the Davie yard in recent weeks included the floating of the second of three 130-meter subsea construction vessels – Hull 718 – being built for Oslo-based Cecon. As a result, the yard’s biggest drydock – which is also the biggest in North America – is available for the first time in years.
Another noteworthy event was the floating of the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Des Groseilliers, which had new engines installed in the yard’s smaller drydock as part of the midlife upgrade and refit planned for several CCG vessels. It was the second CCG ice breaker to recently undergo major work at Davie. Last year, Louis St. Laurent had complex underwater equipment installed to help in the mapping of seabed in support of Canada’s Arctic claims.
According to Vicefield, Davie hopes to land more CCG contracts in the near future. “We’re bidding on that right now (and) hope to make some announcements very soon,” he told Canadian Sailings from Germany in early March. One reason for that confidence, he added, is that the order books of Davie’s two main Canadian competitors – Irving and Seaspan – are filled with orders under the $33 billion National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.
Vicefield said people shouldn’t be surprised by all the good news that has come out of by Davie in early 2015. “It’s really a continuation of 2014, when we notably delivered (the first Cecon ship) which was the most complex non-military ship ever built in North America,” said Vicefield. He added that the company’s focus and expertise, together with the fact it now has two operational drydocks, also opens the door to both major repair and shipbuilding contracts that will keep its 1,300 employees and subcontractors currently working in the yard busy for the foreseeable future.
“Our marketplace is not bulk-size ships or barges,” said Vicefield. “As a group, we are focused on diesel-electric propulsion and dynamic thrusters (and) we are very competitive in that field.”
In addition to the rebuild contracts, Vicefield said Davie is also interested in doing non-combatant NSPS work – particularly the construction of supply ships for the Royal Canadian Navy, which were awarded to Seaspan – if the federal government sees a need for speedier delivery. “The Navy is in urgent need of joint support ships for its operations,” said Vicefield. “We have made it clear to government that we can fill those orders quickly if needed.”