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Seaspan: Celebrating a 30-year legacy in the Victoria community

The organization reflects on its legacy in Victoria while looking ahead to the future
Disney Wonder cruise ship in Victoria at Esquimalt Graving Dock in September 2023.

What started out 30 years ago as a team of five senior managers and a single 20-foot shipping container of supplies has evolved into a centre of excellence for ship repair on the West Coast and a major employer for the region.

Today, Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards employs 800 people and is an economic driver with deep historical roots in the community.

A lot has changed over the last three decades, but the principles on which the shipyard was built remain embedded in the culture to this day. Malcolm Barker, its first general manager, was tasked with rebuilding a once-thriving ship repair yard. His mission was simple: “As we were building the business, we focused on four things: client relationships, quality work, timely delivery and value for money,” he explains. “That is how we earned our first contracts, cultivated long-term customers and developed a talented workforce.” 

Their first major repair job was back in 1994 for a 750-foot containership, the Columbus California. With each repair, each challenge and each docking, the team became stronger, more confident and more efficient. Since then, the team at Victoria Shipyards has used their expertise to repair and refit 477 vessels in the Esquimalt Graving Dock, including Royal Canadian Navy vessels, cruise ships, foreign Navy vessels, barges and other ships. 

A multi-generational legacy

Gene Leech and son, Ben, at Seaspan Victoria Shipyards, April 2024. Photo via: Seaspan.

With a thriving shipyard comes steady jobs with good pay, and in some cases, multi-generational employment for dozens of families who had ship repair in their blood. Maybe it was hearing stories around the dinner table or a desire to work with big, complex ships. Whatever it is, Seaspan is proud to have people working for us who had grandfathers or grandmothers who also worked in these shipyards. 

The Leechs are one of those families. 

Gene Leech has worked his way up to dock master and is now responsible for safely navigating each vessel in the drydock. His son, Ben Leech, also works at Victoria Shipyards as a senior chargehand, pipefitter. However,  the story doesn’t start with Gene and Ben — the Leech legacy at the shipyard traces back to the 1920s, with Gene’s grandfather building the drydock itself. Gene’s father, Jim Leech, also worked in the drydock as a machinist for 49 years and retired in 2001, the same year Gene was promoted to dock master. 

The shipyard not only provides lucrative careers for local tradespeople, but it’s also a big contributor to the economy. A recent socio-economic study produced by Deloitte showed that Victoria Shipyards has contributed $1.72 billion to Canada’s GDP over the last 12 years, with a total labour income of $1.27 billion and a gross output of $2.85 billion. 

Looking to the horizon

Gene’s dad, Jim Leech, worked in the drydock for 49 years. Photo via: Seaspan.

So, what does the next 30 years hold? As it turns out, the priorities that Malcolm Barker established in the early days still hold true today and will remain as the foundation for generations to come. 

“We will continue to build on our established reputation as one of the best ship repair yards in Canada and focus on delivering quality work while strengthening relationships with our customers – it’s a winning formula and that doesn’t change,” says Tony Winter, the current general manager and vice president of Seaspan Victoria Shipyards. 

“We will embrace innovation and seek new ways to support our workforce. Because our workers will always be the heart of our business and the root of our success.” 

And to remind the team just how far they’ve come, that original 20-foot shipping container remains on-site at Seaspan Victoria Shipyards as a symbol of the company’s legacy on the Victoria waterfront.

To learn more about Seaspan’s deep technical expertise, reputation for quality, on-time project delivery and outstanding customer service, visit