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Davie Yards targets coast guard contracts, expects employment to double

The once mothballed operation is humming with 750 workers as it prepares to launch its first ship since restarting operations last year.


MONTREAL – Davie Yards, Canada’s oldest shipyard, says it has turned itself around and is in a strong position to win new coast guard shipbuilding and maintenance contracts that will allow its workforce to more than double in coming years.

The once mothballed operation is humming these days with 750 workers as it prepares to launch its first ship later this month since restarting operations last year.

Chairman Alex Vicefield said in a recent interview that Davie is a different company from when it lost a mammoth federal shipbuilding contract two years ago.

Not only does it operate under new management, the firm has diversified its customer base to include ferries, naval ships, oil and gas and industrial fabrication.

Last month, Davie submitted $1.2 billion worth of proposals and expects to bid in the coming months for the first of several federal contracts for vessels of less than 1,000 tonnes.

Zafiro Marine acquired Davie from a partnership led by Ontario’s Upper Lakes, which said its ownership became too risky after Irving Shipbuilding and Vancouver Shipyards were selected over Davie to build Canada’s next generation of warships and coast guard vessels.

Vicefield said things have turned around since then, with the 188-year-old shipyard now in full production. Davie is Canada’s largest shipbuilding yard with four times the capacity of other yards, the most workers and largest dry dock.

With Irving and Vancouver excluded from bidding on smaller vessels, Davie says it has few competitors, especially for the largest of the ships.

It has signed a five-year agreement with British engineering services firm Babcock International. Davie will provide its facilities while Babcock Canada will contribute marine engineering expertise and experience in managing federal contracts.

The Canadian government plans to spend $2 billion for smaller ship construction over 11 years and about $360 million over the next decade to extend the life of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet.

In June, Ottawa announced funding of up to $488 million to buy 18 to 21 new vessels for the Coast Guard Fleet.

©The Canadian Press