BY R. Bruce Striegler

On October 19, 2011, the federal government announced the results of its National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) with shipbuilding awards to two major Canadian shipyards. On the West Coast, Seaspan Marine Corporation was chosen to build seven non-combat ships including an offshore oceanographic science vessel, an offshore fisheries science vessel, a polar icebreaker and two joint Navy / Coast Guard support ships.

In February 2012, the government signed umbrella agreements with both Seaspan Marine Corporation of Vancouver and Irving Shipbuilding Inc. of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The agreements defined the working relationships and administrative arrangements under which the government will negotiate individual contracts and work together to deliver the ships.

John Shaw, Seaspan’s Vice-President of Government Relations and Business Development says, “Since the initial award and the February 14th agreement, we’ve been busy with preparation activity which includes putting together an executive management and technical team as well as making significant progress on our facilities side to accommodate the new construction.”

“We’ve had ongoing meetings with the Coast Guard,” says Shaw, “in preparation to enter a contract for the design, or completion of design, leading to the first build.”  Mr. Shaw explains that the Coast Guard supplied Seaspan with design and other technical specifications, which the company is now reviewing. “We’re in discussion and negotiation as to how we move those specifications forward, so as to have final, functional production design for the ship.”

The first ship expected to be built is an offshore fisheries science research vessel. Mr. Shaw says it is expected that this preliminary work could take nine to twelve months which would put the beginning of construction somewhere in the second or third quarter of 2013. Following the detailed discussions around the Coast Guard-supplied specifications, Seaspan is to provide the Coast Guard with pricing before entering into a construction contract.

John Shaw says, “We’ve hired a shipyard President who will be responsible for delivering on the long-term strategic plan for the shipyard group, as well as implementing specific policies and management practices.”  Brian Carter joined Seaspan Marine Corporation as President in January 2012. His 18 years of experience includes 10 years with San Diego-based General Dynamics NASSCO, one of the largest military and commercial new construction shipyards in North America.  In 2010, Mr. Carter founded Brizo Maritime, a consulting company that works with maritime companies on strategic development initiatives.

Additionally, Shaw says, ‘We’ve hired a Supply Chain Director for the shipyards, and are in the process of hiring the technical staff we need to complete the design and program work.”

Seaspan is spending up to $200 million to upgrade its Vancouver and Victoria yards. In April 2012, the company announced it had entered into a technology support agreement with the Korean company STX Offshore and Shipbuilding Company Ltd. John Shaw says the partnership is a key milestone in the plan to upgrade facilities. “STX has reviewed our plans and offered recommendations for improvements, and we are currently reviewing its suggestions.”

The technology support from STX will initially focus on optimizing shop layouts, material flow and production methods and processes. Shaw says the efficiency improvements will be reflected in final facility design and will offer significant long-term benefits to both the Government of Canada and future commercial customers.  “The facility improvements we’re making will make Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards more efficient and will improve its ability to compete internationally to retain shipbuilding jobs in B.C.”

Seaspan announced recently that it had selected Stantec as the design consultants for the facility and infrastructure upgrades at its Vancouver Shipyards. A Canadian company founded in 1954, Stantec provides consulting services across a broad spectrum of fields including engineering, architecture and project man­agement for public and private clients around the world. The company will provide integrated engineering and architectural support for the yard’s infrastructure upgrades, with planning and design beginning immediately and construction to begin later in 2012.

John Shaw also says, “We have identified a management system, a manufacturing resource planning system that will form the backbone of all our information handling, storage and retention and we’re in negotiations with a supplier to implement this system.”

Seaspan Marine Corporation originated in 1898 as a small company servicing B.C.’s coastal communities. Over the years, Seaspan has become a major marine transportation company serving the West Coast of North America, providing ship docking services to Port Metro Vancouver, Victoria Esquimalt and B.C. out-ports. The company owns and operates three shipyards, Vancouver Drydock Company Ltd., Vancouver Shipyards Co Ltd., and Victoria Shipyards Co. Ltd. at the federally owned Esquimalt Graving Dock. In 2011, these three shipyards employed 725 people.