Victoria-built $6M ferry-dock pontoon heads to Sunshine Coast

A team led by United Engineering Ltd. that built a $6-million pontoon for B.C. Ferries’ Langdale terminal has augmented Victoria’s construction and manufacturing capability.

“We have gained new expertise,” Dave Bukovec, United Engineering general manager, said Friday during a tour atop the new pontoon.

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That expertise means local companies will be able to bid on more contracts, bringing in revenue to the businesses and providing hours to skilled trades workers.

Michael Pearson, B.C. Ferries’ senior project manager for terminal construction, said a Vancouver-area firm had built its two other most recent pontoons.

“This was a real benefit to the company to bring another player into the game,” Pearson said. “Not only that, it is local, on the Island, so it spreads out some of the work to more than just the Lower Mainland region.”

The 380-foot-long and 50-foot-wide floating pontoon weighing about 4,500 tonnes is scheduled to be towed out from the Upper Harbour at 8 this morning. It should arrive at its permanent home on the Sunshine Coast after a 48-hour journey.

Old mooring dolphins that had reached the end of their lives have been removed. Alternate ferry service is in effect until April 7, when regular service resumes.

United Engineering, part of the Victoria-based Ralmax Group of Companies, won the pontoon contract and worked closely with Victoria’s Farmer Construction Ltd. and other local companies.

“It [the pontoon] is something that is very unique to us but it is something that fit with the skills of the group so we pursued it,” Bukovec said.

The pontoon was built at the Point Hope Maritime site on Harbour Road, where United Engineering has some of its operations.

United Engineering carried out fabrication work, Trio Ready Mix supplied the concrete and Farmer did the concrete form work, Bukovec said. Point Hope and Trio are also in the Ralmax family.

The pontoon was built in three sections then fixed together.

Salish Sea Industrial Services, which is partly owned by Ralmax, outfitted the pontoon, he said.

Other companies involved include Western Grader, DSI, Emery Electric, Tycon Steel, Pacific Concrete Cutter, and Ferries.

About 100 workers took part in the construction of the pontoon over nine months.

This project was possible because Ralmax, headed by Ian Maxwell, bought Ramsay Group’s industrial manufacturing property in Sidney two years ago. That allowed the Point Hope-United engineering operations to expand and take on larger jobs, such as the pontoon.

The main benefit of a floating pontoon, compared with a fixed dock, is that it will move up and down with the tide, Pearson said.

This pontoon will serve triple duty once it is tied up to other existing pontoons at Langdale.

It will service the Langdale-Horseshoe Bay route, connect with the pontoon for Gambier and Keats islands service, and support the public float.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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