Halifax shipbuilders let out a resounding “Hoo-ha” after receiving official confirmation yesterday of a multi-million dollar contract to refit seven of Canada’s navy frigates over the next 12 years.
As anticipated, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced Halifax Shipyards has been awarded the $549-million deal, which will employ 600 people at its peak. The five remaining frigates will receive upgrades in Victoria, B.C., under a second contract valued at $341 million.
“We want to make sure that we’re both updating their seaworthiness in addition to the technology we have on those ships,” MacKay said. “These frigates are going to have a life well into the future, particularly after this refit.”
When asked if he thought the contract to upgrade all 12 frigates should have been awarded to Halifax, Jim Irving replied half-jokingly, “Il n’y a pas de question” — without question. However the president of Irving Shipbuilding Inc. said he was thrilled with the federal investment, which will help to secure a future for shipbuilders in Atlantic Canada.
“This is about retaining our folks here, No. 1. No. 2, we have to reinvest in the training, redevelopment and rehiring of our young people,” he said.
In a time of major cutbacks in the manufacturing sector, the announcement is “a solid base to work from,” says Marine Worker’s Federation president Karl Risser Jr.
“I can only hope that the ship building industry can be strong enough to some day provide a future for my son if he so chooses,” the third-generation shipbuilder said.
MacKay said he expects to announce a long-term shipbuilding and replacement strategy and a plan for maintaining capacity in the Canadian Forces in the near future.
Barring size restrictions, Irving said Halifax shipyards have sufficient capacity for a major shipbuilding undertaking.
“We’re open for business,” he said, turning to MacKay. “Anything you need minister, at any time, we’re ready.”