By R. Bruce Striegler

Making ready for NSPS ship construction

“Having received our development permits from the District of North Vancouver, we held a ground-breaking ceremony October 19th,” says John Shaw, Vice-President Government Relations and Business Development at Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards. He is referring to shipyard infrastructure improvements to accommodate new ship construction following Seaspan’s award under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS). “We expect to have the facilities complete and operational by the end of 2014. However, development of infrastructure and capabilities will continue to evolve since one of our commitments is to put together world-class facilities over time.”

Site redevelopment will continue over the next two years, and Shaw says, “We’re building four new fabrication buildings, a shipbuilding gantry crane and load-out pier.” Seaspan is investing nearly $200 million to improve the Vancouver yard’s facilities as it prepares to begin work on the non-combat ships awarded under NSPS. Initial vessels that will be built at Seaspan Shipyards include three off-shore fisheries science vessels, one off-shore oceanographic science vessel, one polar icebreaker and two Joint Support Ships. Shaw adds that the company will also invest additional money to upgrade facilities at its Victoria Shipyards, which will include a new building to support the commissioning and trials of the new ships.

John Shaw explains that since the spring, Seaspan has further defined and developed procurement requirements for the new infrastructure and has requested tenders for a number of items including foundations for the new buildings. “In late August we barged in 35,000 tons of gravel as pre-load for the erection berth which will be moved several times until the entire new construction site has benefited from the pre-load.”

Technical elements and senior personnel come together

“We are working with the government to assess the initial designs for the fisheries and oceanographic science vessels and we’re working towards a design contract this year. We will then go into full-blown production design for those first vessels.” Shaw explains that the next steps are to negotiate contracts to build the first of the ships, saying he expects that will take place near the end of 2013.

In the meantime, Seaspan continues discussion with the Royal Canadian Navy in its selection process for the design of the Joint Support Ship, saying that Seaspan is assisting the Navy with internal studies which will result in a business case for selecting one design over another. He says the company doesn’t expect to begin cutting steel for vessel fabrication until the latter part of next year.

Assembly of the executive and management team for NSPS shipbuilding work is another significant aspect for Seaspan. Early in 2012, the yard secured a new shipyard President, a supply chain director and technical staff as well as a new MRP (Manufacturing Resource Management) system. Shaw notes that implementation of the system is currently underway, with completion scheduled for early next year.

Shaw says he is pleased with the progress that the company has made in facilities improvements but emphasizes that it is extremely important to develop the team, “It will be the people that will drive this project forward and see it through to success.” He says the company has been quite successful in building the required team. “In the last six months we’ve filled positions in program management and engineering, in procurement and contract management and, of course, in human resources.” The new management team is on-site and Shaw commented how well these professionals have integrated into the Seaspan line-up. He adds that they are still looking for additional senior employees, primarily in the technical trades including designers and engineers.