New Coast Guard ship coming to Victoria for finishing, sea trials

The first ship built by Seaspan Shipyards under the federal government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy is expected to arrive in Victoria today for finishing touches and sea trials before being handed over to the Canadian Coast Guard.

CCGS Sir John Franklin, named for the famed Arctic explorer and British Royal Navy officer, is the first of three offshore fisheries science vessels Seaspan is in the midst of building. Having it in the water marks a milestone for the company and the industry, Seaspan’s chief executive said.

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Brian Carter called launching the vessel last week in Vancouver a key moment and the first step along the path to “substantially rebuilding the shipbuilding industry in Canada.”

“It’s been a heck of a couple of years for us while we built this,” said Carter, noting Seaspan has grown significantly and now has 600 workers at its North Vancouver yard and more than 600 at Victoria Shipyards, which works out of Esquimalt Graving Dock.

The second vessel in this class will be launched in the summer 2018 and the third is expected to be ready for trials in early 2019.

“We keep learning from building the first; it makes us more efficient on the second and third,” Carter said.

Now that the first 207-foot vessel is in the water the focus turns to bringing the vessel’s electrical, mechanical and piping systems to life.

Carter said once that has happened they will start testing in the harbour and eventually take it to sea, “to demonstrate that everything works the way it’s supposed to.”

At the same time, crews will be working on the final touches and fittings on the ship.

Carter said as this is the first ship to be put to sea it could take longer to complete it before it’s handed over to the Canadian Coast Guard.

“It will be in Victoria for a number of months,” he said. “And it’s a great opportunity for us to leverage the workforce in Victoria given all the experience they have with work for the Royal Canadian Navy and commercial clients.”

The Coast Guard has had a team with Seaspan throughout the build, and that will continue through final testing.

The vessel is a floating laboratory and will be used to monitor the health of fish stocks and better understand their ocean environment.

Seaspan won a competition in 2011 to build non-combat vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy.

As many as 17 federal ships, worth more than $7 billion, are to be built by Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver and in Victoria, where the ships will receive finishing touches and go through sea trials.

Through the shipbuilding program, Seaspan’s work has created a spin-off effect with more than $180 million in contracts to Canadian businesses.

The company estimates it will spend just over $540 million with about 400 Canadian businesses through the shipbuilding program.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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