Small B.C. shipyard inks deal for Salish ferries warranty work

Meridian Marine Industries Inc. has inked a deal to handle warranty work for B.C. Ferries’ three new Salish-class vessels that were built in Poland.

The Richmond company on the Fraser River will represent Remontowa Shipbuilding S.A., the huge shipyard that built the Salish vessels.

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James McFadden, Meridian president, can’t say yet how much work will come out of the deal.

The 351-foot Salish Orca, Eagle and Raven all arrived in B.C. in 2017 and carry two-year warranties. They serve the Southern Gulf Islands-Tsawwassen and Comox-Powell River routes, replacing the Queen of Nanaimo and Queen of Burnaby.

McFadden flew to Gdansk on Dec. 4 to spend a week meeting with shipyard officials to negotiate the contract.

“I just looked at the other side of the coin. I said: ‘There must be something here that we can do,’ ” McFadden said. “We reached out to see if there was an opportunity to work with the shipbuilders in Europe who were building the vessels for B.C. Ferries.”

Remontowa did not have a representative in Canada to look after the warranty for the ships, he said. The contract means that Meridian will be Remontowa’s warranty guarantee manager in Canada. The Richmond company will carry out work within its capabilities, such as steel repairs, pipe fitting and joinery, and use subcontractors when needed, McFadden said.

Meridian’s contract is similar to a deal between Victoria’s Point Hope Maritime and Damen Shipyards Group, which is building two minor-class ferries at its yard in Romania.

Point Hope’s agreement with Damen will see it “provide technical and warranty support for the new vessels, ensuring repair and maintenance activities will be performed in British Columbia,” a B.C. Ferries statement said last year.

Mark Wilson, B.C. Ferries’ vice-president of strategy and community engagement, who also has oversight and management of the vessel replacement program, said: “It is very nice for us that we have a local provider for the warranty work for those ships.”

These kinds of agreements, including the Point Hope-Damen deal, are between the shipyard and the local repair facilities.

“B.C. Ferries is very excited that there are arrangements in place [for] this warranty work when the ships are here in service, [and work] gets done locally and gets done by local shipyards.”

McFadden did his first work on a B.C. Ferries vessel, the Queen of Saanich, 23 years ago.

Part of the company’s business model sees Meridian working with other shipyards. The Meridian yard is supplying the aft door and has built a staircase that will run up three decks on the Northern Sea Wolf. Esquimalt Drydock Co. Ltd. won $20 million worth of contracts to upgrade that vessel, which was purchased in Greece by B.C. Ferries.

Meridian has previously worked with Esquimalt Drydock on the Queen of Oak Bay.

McFadden advocates shared work, maintaining that yards need to work as consortiums to win contracts such as B.C. Ferries projects. “I think that’s the way forward for smaller companies — if we team together and take on projects.”

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