By R. Bruce Striegler

On Canada’s east coast, Irving Shipbuilding is focused on the 30-month Arctic offshore patrol ship (AOPS) project definition contract, signed on March 7th, 2013. Kevin McCoy, President, Irving Shipbuilding says, “Together with our tier-one subcontractors, we are working to produce a detailed Arctic offshore patrol ship design that delivers best value to Canada while ensuring we meet the 2015 deadline to cut steel on the first ship.” The team includes Lockheed Martin Canada as command and surveillance systems integrator, GE Canada as integrated propulsion system integrator, Lloyd’s Register Group as classification society, Odense Maritime Technology (OMT) as marine engineering and naval architecture provider, and Fleetway Inc. as integrated logistics support provider. McCoy notes that the group is focused on supplier engagement, integrated logistics support, production planning and engineering.

“As we progress with the AOPS program schedule”, says McCoy, “We’re also ensuring our yard modernization plans move in-sync. We’re preparing new facilities, acquiring new equipment, and formulating new processes to be ready for the production phase.” Irving Shipbuilding is investing approximately $300 million in the Halifax Shipyard Modernization Program, designed to assure facilities are ready to undertake production of the AOPS vessels scheduled starting in 2015, as well as the larger combatant ship contract currently scheduled to begin production in 2020.

McCoy says that the yard designs have been reviewed and benchmarked against international best practices by First Marine International, to ensure the updated facilities meet measures established in the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) process. The demolition of the yard’s joiner shop, burning shop and entire backend of the 100-year-old module shop, the yard’s primary production facility, has been completed. Demolition of remaining production facilities are scheduled for 2014. Seven cribs for the land level facility in the north end of the yard have been installed in the harbour and infilling has commenced. Demolition and replacement of the barrier wall and fence along Barrington Street and the repair of the lower wall continues, and is expected to be complete by year-end. And perhaps the most visible structure to date at the shipyard is the parking garage being erected in the south end of the yard. Construction on the parking garage continues on schedule, and will be complete early in first quarter of 2014. 

“We will also be establishing a new offsite steel fabrication facility in Dartmouth, across Halifax Harbour from the shipyard,” says McCoy. An estimated $28 million investment in this new facility will allow for steel marking, cutting, burning, bending and forming, as well as preliminary fabrication to take place before the pieces and units arrive at Halifax Shipyard’s new assembly hall. Portions of the current yard will shut down while new facilities are built, and McCoy notes, “In addition to completing the Mid-Shore Patrol Vessel program for the Coast Guard and working on the frigate mid-life refits, we will continue to work on commercial and other ship repair business during the construction phase.”

NSPS program work fits into an otherwise busy shipyard schedule

Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard site is focused on ongoing projects for Canada as well as commercial repair projects, and Mr. McCoy says, “We have successfully delivered six of nine high-tech mid-shore Hero-Class patrol vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard. We are currently preparing to launch vessel number seven and will complete this $198 million contract in 2014.”

He adds that Irving’s $549-million contract for mid-life refits on seven of Canada’s Halifax-Class frigates also continues until 2017, with three vessels complete and two underway. HMCS Charlottetown is currently docked in Halifax Shipyard’s Graving Dock, while shipyard employees have begun work on HMCS St. John’s out of the Department of National Defense’s Halifax-based Naval Dockyard next door to Halifax Shipyard.

Halifax Shipyard’s Panamax-sized dock continues to pick up steady commercial repair work, from Ro-Ro (roll-on, roll-off) passenger ferries to tankers, while Shelburne Ship Repair, located on Nova Scotia’s south shore, has been enjoying steady repair work in the commercial and fishing industries. The company is aggressively pursuing new projects to fully utilize both its experienced and skilled workforce as well as its repair docks and facilities. Irving Shipbuilding is also actively pursuing fabrication, refit and repair work in the oil and gas industry for its Woodside Industries site in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Projects most recently completed at that site include drill rig repair, refurbishment, winterization and conversion, as well as offshore fabrication.

The employment that comes with the transformation and construction of North America’s most modern shipyard continues to grow, and Mr. McCoy comments, “In fact, we project we’ll peak at approximately 500 construction jobs on Halifax Shipyard’s site sometime in 2014. Based on third party economic impact assessments, the total $300 million yard modernization investment is expected to boost Canadian gross domestic product by $235 million, create approximately 1,720 full time equivalent positions across Canada, direct with our suppliers and indirect with their subcontractors, and generate $136 million worth of employment income in the country over the two-year period.” He continues pointing out that the work will also lead to more than $102 million worth of consumer spending, while the economic activity is expected to provide approximately $50 million worth of taxes for federal, provincial and local governments over the two-year period.

The economic impacts from the national shipbuilding contracts, engineering, planning and supply chain will scale up with the preparation and start of production on AOPS in 2015. “The trade’s workforce will begin its ramp-up in the latter part of 2015, coinciding with the start of production on the first set of NSPS vessels, the Arctic offshore patrol ships. The staff complement has grown to accommodate the momentum building on the definition contract for the AOPS, with recruitment of key leadership positions, as well as experienced personnel in the supply chain, document management, information technology, human resources and engineering and planning areas of the business.” 

On the trades side, with more than 325 persons employed, Irving Shipbuilding is the largest employer of apprentices in Nova Scotia, and McCoy says that Irving Shipbuilding is very proud of the 33 apprentices that achieved their Red Seals during the 2012-2013 period. The company continues to work very closely with the local community college, provincial labour department, and Unifor Local 1 representatives to find ways to continually improve upon the apprenticeship program.

Irving recognizes and supports its Nova Scotia communities

Mr. McCoy says that Irving Shipbuilding feels privileged to call Halifax Harbour home, “Our roots at this location reach back more than a century. We understand our responsibility when it comes to our waters, our harbour, and our environment. He continues, saying that the Atlantic Reef Ball Program is a great example of the far-reaching impacts that can and do result from a national initiative like the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), and the strategic decision to build ships for Canadians in Canada.

“The investment being made in new facilities, equipment, systems and processes at Halifax Shipyard to ready ourselves to build the Royal Canadian Navy’s new combat fleet required that we repatriate a portion of the harbour adjacent to our yard for a new land level assembly facility for the ships.” McCoy says that the company recognized the impact the work will have on the harbour floor and on the fish habitat located there and moved to support the Atlantic Reef Ball Program by providing $200,000 to Clean Nova Scotia’s fund. The program creates habitat for marine life in shallow coastal waters by placing cement structures known as reef balls on the ocean floor.

“Beyond meeting the requirements under the federal Fisheries Act to offset habitat degradation, supporting this program was a perfect fit for J.D. Irving, Limited’s larger on-going commitment to the environment, to conservation, and to sustainability. From wildlife and habitat conservation, to species research, pollution prevention, and forest management, the J.D. Irving family of companies has been recognized nationally and internationally for their efforts and success.”

Further benefitting the community, McCoy says, “Our $500,000 investment in research at the IWK Health Centre, the Maritime region’s leading health centre providing specialized, quality care to women, children, youth and families, was made on behalf of the men and women of Irving Shipbuilding, and was a recognition that excellence in health services for infants and children is very important to our employees and their families. The contribution is being used to support the recruitment of a hematologist, research and leading edge clinical trials, as well as a related expansion of Dr. Jason Berman’s zebrafish laboratory.

The company is involved in many other community and not-for-profit initiatives including adding its name as the presenting sponsor of the 2014 Atlantic Provinces True Patriot Love Tribute dinner in support of military families. Irving was the Signature sponsor of the inaugural Battle of the Atlantic Gala Dinner in May 2013, to remember those who served in the Royal Canadian Navy and the Merchant Navy during the Battle of the Atlantic, an engagement that turned out to be the longest battle during the Second World War.

At the same time, the men and women of Irving Shipbuilding have supported a neighbourhood charitable organization, Veith House, which provides support programming for those in need in our immediate community. Employees have raised more than $15,000 since 2010 for families in need during the holiday season.

Irving Shipbuilding is also working to establish a Centre of Shipbuilding Excellence at the Nova Scotia Community College, and a memorandum of understanding was signed in October 2012.  The mandate of the centre is to provide all Nova Scotians with a special focus on under-represented groups in our industry sector including Aboriginal, African Nova Scotians, women, and people with disabilities, with applicable programs and training to optimize opportunities to work in the shipbuilding industry. Also a long-term supporter of the Co-operative Education system, Irving Shipbuilding reaches out each year to take on students wishing to learn more about the shipbuilding industry. Primarily from the engineering and computer science departments of local universities, students are put to work in the planning, engineering, IT and other program teams within the business, putting their skills to work on real-life business challenges. 

Mr. McCoy says that Canada has shown foresight in understanding the importance of not only maintaining a strong shipbuilding industrial base but the willingness to invest in it. “The programs undertaken in Halifax, Nova Scotia and on the west coast of Canada over the next 25 to 30 years will result in a robust, healthy shipbuilding industry in this country. Smaller shipyards will benefit from the smaller defence and coast guard and fisheries vessels. And the capacity and capability of the marine sector in Canada will grow overall.” He observes that opportunities come with great responsibility, “not only for delivering great ships at a fair cost, but also in terms of building and maintaining a world class shipbuilding industrial base for Canada right here in Nova Scotia, and we are determined to deliver on that commitment. Our employees are excited for the opportunity Canada has given them and the confidence in their ability to succeed.”