Canada: Thunder Bay Shipyard Completes First Large-Scale Ship Repair

The Tadoussac in drydock at the Thunder Bay shipyard. (Image Courtesy: Heddle Marine Service)

Thunder Bay’s shipyard reached a milestone over the winter, completing its first large-scale project since being purchased two years ago. The shipyard — owned by Heddle Marine Service — spent about four months repairing Canada Steamship Lines’ 223-metre ship Tadoussac.

It was a big step up from the smaller vessels, such as tugs, that have been worked on in the time since Heddle purchased the dormant shipyard in 2016, said company sales and marketing manager Shaun Padulo.

“I think that this was a very significant milestone,” he said. “The operators, the major shipping companies in Canada — the Algomas, the CSLs, Rand Logistics of this world, I think, perhaps, were hesitant at going to Thunder Bay, because the yard had been shut down for so long.”

“At the same time, Thunder Bay poses some unique issues,” Padulo said. “Obviously, the weather is a bit of a challenge.” Padulo said that the Tadoussac project “proved to the industry” the shipyard can handle larger vessels, and he hopes at least one similar-sized ship, if not two, will be at the shipyard next winter.

Heddle, Fabmar Partnership

Padulo could not share too many details about the work done on the Tadoussac. He said it was essentially repair and maintenance work, needed to get the ship — which has been moored in Thunder Bay for the last few years — ready to go back into service this shipping season.

Padulo said that Heddle is partnered with Thunder Bay company Fabmar Metals Inc. Heddle owns the shipyard, while Fabmar brought in people to work on the Tadoussac over the winter. Padulo said there’s a core group of about 25 people, but the company brought in many more to do the Tadoussac work.

“During the spring and summer, there are projects that are ongoing, but the major works are always done in the fall and the winter [while the Seaway is closed].”

Skilled Trades Workers Key

The availability of skilled trades workers is a challenge for the industry, however, Padulo said. “In the shipyard, we’re definitely going to need welders, fitters,” he said.

“A big one is blasting and painting, that is something that we will look at needing, potentially, our own crews,” Padulo said. “We are going to try to become as self-sufficient as possible, [while] at the same time using key suppliers in the Thunder Bay area.”

Padulo said that the company plans to have discussions with Confederation College about the possibility of training students for work in the shipyard.

“The marine industry poses some unique challenges,” he said. “We find, actually, it’s hard to hire a welder that’s used to working in certain conditions, and then bringing him into a shipyard. There is a lot of different positions, like overhead positions, you’re sometimes welding old steel to new steel, or vice-versa, which is an art in and of itself.”

(Source: CBC Canada)

Sea News, April 13