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Seaspan adds $3.3-billion federal shipbuilding contract to its portfolio
A cluster of Seaspan workers smiled behind the scene on Monday, as federal Minister of Public Works and Government Services Diane Finley announced another 10 non-combat vessels will be built at the North Vancouver shipyard.
The estimated $3.3-billion project to build five medium-endurance, multi-tasked vessels and five offshore patrol vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard is adding steam to the existing $8-billion, seven-vessel shipbuilding contract Seaspan was awarded two years ago.
Standing inside a brand-new sub-assembly building — part of Seaspan's $200-million upgrade to prepare for the forthcoming projects — Percy Darbyson, business manager for Allied Shipbuilders Union local 506, spoke to The Outlook about renewed optimism at the local shipyard.
"I know all the workers in the yard are ecstatic over the long-term work — and they look forward to being able to have a future within the shipyard that at one point we weren't sure whether that was going to happen or not," said Darbyson. "We didn't think there was any future for shipbuilding on the West Coast — now it looks great."
As Seaspan looks to hire 4,000 new employees to build the vessels, the question remains: Will the majority of them live in the community?
"At one time they were mainly [living] on the North Shore," said Darbyson "Now they are spread out throughout the [Fraser] Valley because of the cost of living on the North Shore and the cost of living in Vancouver."
Speaking to the gathered media, Finley said, all told, the federal government is committing $38.3 billion to the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, which in turn is expected to generate $2 billion annually in economic benefits.
"That, ladies and gentlemen, represents a lot of good stable jobs for Canadians — particularly here in B.C.," said Finley.
John Weston, MP for West Van-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, told The Outlook that he's heard from Seaspan of their plans to hire 65 employees in the near term.
"But there are so many follow-on jobs from that," added Weston. "So I think that  is probably a base minimum. It's a very big day for the North Shore."
The modernization of Seaspan's shipyards is expected to be completed in time for the start of construction on the first new ship next October — an offshore fisheries science vessel.