Heddle Marine Service Inc. (Heddle) and Fabmar Metals Inc. (Fabmar) have formed a strategic partnership with the goal of restoring the historic Thunder Bay Shipyard to a position of prominence on the Great Lakes.

Fabmar has already successfully executed several projects at the shipyard, including the dry docking of a local tug named the tug George N Carlton in November 2016 for Gravel Lakes as well as a more recent dry docking of a local tug named the Miseford in June 2017 for Thunder Bay Tug.

However, Heddle and Fabmar’s main priority is the refurbishment/expansion of the Thunder Bay Graving Dock, restoration of the buildings on the site and the retooling of the machine shop and fabrication shop. “We see the empty fabrication and machine shops as an opportunity,” says Dale Ryynanen, owner and President of Fabmar. “Fabmar and Heddle will be forced into procuring new modern equipment which will ultimately benefit our activities at the shipyard by making us more modern and efficient,” continues Ryynanen.

In July of 2017, Mr. Ryynanen and Mr. Richard Heddle, owner and Chief Operating Officer of Heddle, will undertake surveys of the Thunder Bay Graving Dock to determine the scope of refurbishments required as well as the scope of the extension. “Given the age of the Thunder Bay Graving Dock, it is in great shape”, indicates Mr. Heddle. “That being said, Fabmar and Heddle are investing in the long-term sustainability of the shipyard, so we want to ensure that the dock lasts for many years to come. Therefore, we plan on performing the necessary refurbishments to the existing dock during the same period as the dock extension. Our commitment to the long-term sustainability of the shipyard has been reinforced by the tremendous support we have received from the community with special mentions to Mr. Richard Pohler of the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission and Mr. Tim Heney of Thunder Bay Port Authority,” says Heddle.

Heddle intends to extend the Thunder Bay Graving Dock to accommodate larger vessels operating on the Great Lakes. Heddle and Fabmar are currently performing a cost-benefit analysis to determine the optimal length of the Thunder Bay Graving Dock. The dock will be extended by a minimum of 7.62 meters (25 feet) in order to be able to pull the tail shafts from the most recent generation of Canadian ships operating on the Great Lakes. Heddle and Fabmar are also considering the possibility of extending the dock further to accommodate larger ships operating in the Upper Great Lakes.

Further, Heddle has begun a dialogue with Confederation College in Thunder Bay. “Our goal is to be a positive member of the Thunder Bay community”, says Mr. Ryynanen. “Working with Confederation College will be mutually beneficial for both Fabmar/Heddle and the college because Fabmar/Heddle can provide employment opportunities, but the college will provide training and exposure for the next generation of skilled labourers at the Thunder Bay Shipyard.”