Advisory committee to help map out future of shipbuilding in B.C.

A new B.C. shipbuilding advisory committee has been appointed to make recommendations to government and industry on how to maintain and boost shipbuilding, ship repair, marine businesses and good-paying skilled jobs.

That includes fostering green and other technologies, vessel maintenance, educating future workers and attracting more women and Indigenous people to shipbuilding.

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A key aim is to increase market share and opportunities related to shipbuilding and supply chains.

Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation Ravi Kahlon said the committee will focus on “what our provincial capacity is and how we become more competitive globally, focused on innovation, in particular on low-carbon solutions.”

Many ship owners around the world are shifting fuel types, with some vessels powered by electric batteries or by hydrogen. B.C. is already home to world leaders in these areas, he said.

B.C. has had a shipbuilding industry since the 19th century, but the sector has a history of roller-coaster returns, as large shipyards closed and new ones opened over the years. In 2011, North Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards was announced as the favoured applicant to build Canada’s non-combat vessels, and has since built several science vessels.

The contract to construct and deliver a polar icebreaker was awarded to Seaspan in May 2021 and is expected to support 1,400 direct jobs in B.C., in addition to spinoff economic opportunities.

Capital region ship-repair facilities include Point Hope Maritime on Harbour Road, Victoria Shipyards (part of Seaspan) and the huge federally owned Esquimalt Graving Dock. Port Alberni’s port has deep-sea berths and its port authority has been working with a private company on plans for a dry dock.

The province wants to make sure the high-value sector remains healthy and viable in coming years.

Kahlon told the Times Colonist he hopes the experts will provide guidance on where to take the sector by the middle of next year. Findings will be shared with the public, he said.

B.C. has just over 1,000 companies in the industrial marine sector, which contributes about $6.8 billion annually to B.C.’s economy and employs 22,000 people.

The new committee consists of two separate bodies — the B.C. shipbuilding industry working group and the B.C. ­shipbuilding innovation advisory council.

The working group is chaired by Robert Allan, president of the Association of B.C. Marine Industries, and it membership is made up of sector experts.

The innovation advisory council is chaired by Brenda Eaton, chair of B.C. Ferry Services’ board of directors. That group will deliver guidance and feedback to the industry ­working group. It will also advise on engagement and consultation with stakeholders. It includes senior representation from the B.C. and federal ­governments, labour and ­academia.

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