NAL port weller dry docks,
By Doug Draper
A dry spell for St. Catharines shipbuilder Seaway Marine & Industrial Inc. – formerly Port Weller Dry Docks – came to an end this February 6 with the announcement of a $21.7 million federal government contact to refurbish the Canadian naval destroyer HMSC Athabaskan.
The announcement was made at the at the shipbuilder’s site along the along the east side of the Welland Canal in north St. Catharines by federal Public Works and Government Services Minister Rona Ambrose and St. Catharines MP Rick Dykstra.
“I couldn’t be happier to see the federal government investing again in our community”, said Dykstra, the Conservative MP for the riding. “From Brock University in the south end, to the Performing Arts Centre downtown and now SMI in the north end, St. Catharines is clearly back on the federal radar when it comes to these types of investments.”
“Once again, the Government of Canada is drawing on the expertise of Canadian companies to deliver top-of-the-line services to our men and women in uniform,” added Ambrose during the announcement. “We are committed to providing the Canadian Forces with the equipment and services they need, while conducting an open, fair and transparent competitive procurement process.”
SMI vice president John Dewer said the shipbuilding company is “happy to bring this work to St. Catharines. This will help in what would otherwise be a quiet summer period.”
The company has had its share of quiet periods in recent times. Last June, one of its executives expressed disappointment following the christening in Niagara of a brand new ship called the Algoma Mariner and owned by St. Catharines-based Algoma Central. The ship, which the executive could have been built at the SMI dry docks, was built in China. At the time of its christening at the southern end of the Welland Canal in Port Colborne, SMI’s St Catharines facilities was short of work and was down from a workforce of more than 140 to a skeleton staff of about five.
The refurbishing of the HMCS Athabaskan, awarded to SMI through a competitive bidding process, is required to enable the ship to keep providing continued and reliable services to the Royal Canadian Navy. It will include a docking to facilitate extensive underwater work, in addition to comprehensive maintenance and repairs on various ship systems like air, firefighting and electrical, as well as deck equipment.
The work will begin in April and is expected to be completed by fall 2012.
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