Sidney firm Ramsay Machine Works finishes $20M coal-slinger project

Ramsay Machine Works hopes a $20-million coal slinger it spent the last 19 months fabricating in North Saanich signals the start of a new wave of B.C. manufacturing.

President Greg Ramsay is pinning hopes on continued improvement in the forest industry, re-emergence of mining as a major economic contributor and the hope B.C. can take advantage of the growing liquefied natural gas market.

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“As manufacturers, we go through a roller coaster ride. We have been so reliant on resource industries. We need investment in B.C. or we will die,” Ramsay said. “If you can’t attract new investment and these major projects [like LNG] don’t go, companies like ours won’t be in business.”

The massive stacker-reclaimer, which will be used to move coal between stockpiles and vessels, is part of a $63.5-million upgrade to a North Vancouver shipping terminal.

The project gave steady work to a team of 60 at Ramsay Machine Works — a 110 year-old family company — as well as work for 100 local trades and subcontractors. Ramsay estimated the trickle-down economic impact at three or four times the $20-million pricetag.

But it also represents a statement from the B.C. fabricating and manufacturing industry.

“We’ve seen a lot of interest from other companies that can’t believe it’s been done in Sidney. There’s now a lot of interest in building these kinds of things locally rather than offshore,” he said.

Since landing the contract, Ramsay has secured a contract with British Petroleum in the U.S. and some smaller coastal projects.

But Ramsay said the future of the company rests on the overall economic health of the province.

“We are quite concerned about the future,” he said. “We are hoping LNG will go in B.C. That could be an unbelievable shot in the arm for B.C.”

But LNG has become a political talking point during this election with the Liberal and New Democratic parties favouring the extraction for export, though at different paces, while the Green party has argued for expanding the clean energy sector rather than expanding LNG pipelines.

That has Ramsay concerned. “I’m real concerned if the politics overwhelm everything else,” he said. “As a province, we are going to miss the opportunity because there are other parts of the world vying for the same thing. If you’re not the first to get there or at least be in the forefront, you get left behind.”

For now, Ramsay has other stresses as the company prepares to move the massive stacker-reclaimer, likely in the next two weeks.

The machine has to be taken apart and shipped in five pieces.

The components will be transported from their existing spot on MacDonald Park Road across the airport’s main runway and along a service road that runs parallel down to West Saanich Road.

The machine then crosses the road where it will be laid onto three barges in Patricia Bay to be shipped to Vancouver, where Ramsay’s team will reassemble it in place.

“Because of the logistics, it’s pretty stressful,” he said.

According to Terry Stewart, director of marketing for Victoria International Airport, the airport has helped Ramsay move 13 massive structures over the last two decades, though this stacker-reclaimer is the largest.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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