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New graving dock gets city OK, jobs to follow

A new $50-million-plus graving dock to be built at Point Hope Maritime shipyard near the new Johnson Street Bridge was given the green light by Victoria councillors Thursday.
Point Hope Graving Dock.jpg
The proposed new graving dock at Port Hope Marine shipyard, approved Thursday by Victoria council, is expected to cost in excess of $50 million.

A new $50-million-plus graving dock to be built at Point Hope Maritime shipyard near the new Johnson Street Bridge was given the green light by Victoria councillors Thursday.

Once completed, the graving dock will mean another 200 high-paying jobs at the shipyard in addition to the 200 already there.

“Those are well-paid jobs that can pay the mortgage. A labourer in our shipyard is earning, including his benefits, just under $90,000 and skilled trades they take home between $110,000 and $130,000 a year,” said Point Hope Marine general manager Riccardo Regosa.

“It’s a very, very significant investment,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

“We see lots of $50-million investments in the downtown. We see new buildings going up everywhere and that’s awesome and that investment is totally welcome. This investment is the kind of investment that is going to have a long-term payoff,” Helps said.

Ralmax Group of Companies plans to build the graving dock at its shipyard, at 203-211 Harbour Road in Victoria West.

It will be capable of servicing vessels up to 170 metres (560 feet) in length and six-metre draft.

Regosa said the new dry dock will enable the shipyard to service most Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard vessels as well as most B.C. Ferries vessels.

“I think with our dock we will be well positioned to provide services to all three of them in the future. So I expect those will be part of our client base,” Regosa said.

Prior to start of construction, Ralmax will need approval from a number of agencies, including Transport Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the provincial Ministry of Environment. Once approvals are granted, construction will take 18 to 24 months.

Helps said Ralmax needs the development permit before getting provincial and federal government approvals.

“Now they can go forward to Ottawa and say, ‘Hey look, the local government is supportive and now Ottawa needs to take those steps. So it’s a very significant milestone today,” Helps said.

Coun. Ben Isitt said industrial use of the site is appropriate as long as activities there do not interfere with “use and enjoyment” for city residents — particularly people living elsewhere in Victoria West and downtown.

Isitt said Ralmax has a good track record, but the city might consider tightening up regulations to ensure residential interests are protected.

“Certainly if the property ever changed hands [there might be a concern], he said. “We deal all the time with nightclubs that are run very well and we never get complaints. Then there’s nightclubs that are run very irresponsibly and we have constant complaints. Presumably the same thing can happen with the shipyard.”

The new graving dock is to be built largely within the existing footprint of the shipyard, and will not affect the navigable marine channel.

All of the work is to be done near the water’s edge. No new buildings are in the plan, and no changes are expected on the Harbour Road frontage. No rezoning is required.

Victoria councillors, sitting as a committee of the whole, unanimously approved the development permit. The decision still has to be ratified by council.

The new graving dock is expected to allow the shipyard to attract one large vessel every three weeks. Ships would remain at the shipyard for one to three months.

Ralmax acquired the shipyard in 2003 and shut it down for three years to undertake a $20-million upgrade that included:

• A water catchment and treatment system.

• A change in the camber of the property so that surface water flows away from the harbour and into catchment drains.

• Hard capping of the shipyard surface.

• Construction of a marine railway system and a marine turntable.

Since 2006, no water has been discharged from the shipyard into the harbour; all water used at the shipyard and all stormwater is treated on site.