BY R. Bruce Striegler

At six months into a 30-year process, the Irving Shipbuilding team is excited by the opportunities ahead as the company starts to build the Royal Canadian Navy’s new combat fleet. Steve Durrell, President of Irving Shipbuilding says, “We are currently focused on preparations required for programs of this nature, be they business, operational or organizational.”

Mr. Durrell says the first task was to complete negotiations with the federal government on the umbrella agreement, the overarching agreement that establishes the framework for subsequent contracts, signed on February 13, 2012.  “We are now focused on planning the key events of a master schedule for both the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) and the Canadian Surface Combatants (CSC) and completing the contracts necessary to allow us to start design and then construction of the first set of vessels, the AOPS. Our hope is to have initial start-up contracts in place this spring to start the engineering and planning process.”

With approximately 1,300 em­ployees working at Irving Ship­building, the company has a robust order book of business including the nine mid-shore patrol vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard, with the first ship to be delivered this spring, and the mid-life refits on seven of the Royal Canadian Navy’s patrol frigates (the FELEX program) at the main Halifax Shipyard location. In addition, Irving Shipbuilding has a steady flow of commercial repair work for the marine and offshore industries at the Halifax Shipyard, Shelburne Ship Repair and Woodside Industries locations.

Attracting an enthousiastic workforce

“While concentrating on the negotiations of the contracts necessary to begin NSPS-related work, we are also ramping up the preparation work required to grow our workforce, attract young people to our industry, and help businesses across our region and throughout Canada be ready to take advantage of the opportunities associated with our supply chain and its economic spinoffs,” says Mr. Durrell.

He notes that Irving has received approximately 11,000 applications since the October 19th, 2011 National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) announcement, and has already hired about 160 people to work primarily on current projects. Mr. Durrell says, “Understanding that we are still developing our plans in this area, we expect our design and engineering team will grow by 150 to 200 employees, as we progress through the various stages of the Program. We are currently recruiting senior members into our organization, in areas including design, engineering and planning, and we expect our trades’ workforce to begin to grow as production reaches a peak when both the AOPS and CSC programs are underway in the yard.”

Irving Shipbuilding launched its online supplier registry in January 2012 and currently has more than 1,200 businesses registered. Steve Durrell says, “We participated in the Atlantic Shipbuilding Action Plan that saw ten supplier information sessions take place around Atlantic Canada over the past three months. We also look forward to participating in the Western Economic Diversification Canada Shipbuilding Summit in Vancouver in May 2012. Certainly all work associated with NSPS-related contracts will be awarded based on a competitive bid process.”