Seaspan Victoria Shipyards’ $500M contract for navy frigates to support 400 jobs

A five-year contract worth $500 million to perform dry-dock maintenance on Canada’s navy frigates was signed Tuesday at Seaspan Victoria Shipyards in Esquimalt.

The contract will support an estimated 400 jobs a year at the shipyard, which employs about 1,100 workers in various trades.

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“It’s great news for jobs, for families and for the local economy,” said Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, at a ceremony at the federally owned Esquimalt Graving Dock.

The contract is Seaspan Victoria Shipyards’ share of a $1-billion federal maintenance program for Canada’s 12 Halifax-class frigates. The ships were first launched in the 1990s and are considered the workhorses of the Royal Canadian Navy.

“As these ships near the end of their lives, more maintenance work needs to be done,” Qualtrough said. “This program will take very good care of them.”

Seaspan Victoria Shipyards and Chantier Davie in Quebec will split the first $1 billion. A similar deal is now being finalized with Irving Shipyards in Nova Scotia.

The initial five years of the contract will see each of the yards perform maintenance work on three frigates. The work is expected to begin in the early 2020s.

More maintenance and refit work is expected in future years under a planned $7.5-billion program designed to maintain the vessels until their retirement, expected in the mid 2040s.

The contract was signed Tuesday in front of a sea of shipyard workers in red hard hats and blue coveralls gathered at Seaspan Victoria Shipyards for the ceremony.

Joe O’Rourke, vice-president and general manager Seaspan Victoria Shipyards, said the maintenance contract is great news, adding years of stability for the yard, founded in 1994.

He noted workers are already familiar with the ships after performing work under earlier government programs to extend the life of the frigates.

“We have grown up on these frigates,” said O’Rourke. “We know these vessels.

“When we dispatch a work crew and say: ‘Go to compartment 131 on C-Deck,’ they can just pick up their equipment and walk straight there.

“They know these ships as well as the sailors.”

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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