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B.C. appoints experts to grow shipbuilding, repair industry

Battery tugboats, hydrogen power in future, minister says
Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards operates within the federally-owned Esquimalt Graving Dock. (Seaspan)

Building the Canadian Coast Guard’s next polar icebreaker at Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver is a high-profile project, but further growth of B.C.’s industry includes repairs, maintenance and innovation such as battery-powered vessels, B.C. Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon says.

Kahlon announced an industry advisory committee Wednesday, tasked with growing an industrial marine sector that already employs more than 22,000 people in B.C., developing new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, and address labour shortages that are increasingly affecting many areas that depend on skilled workers.

The advisory committee includes Mark Collins, CEO of B.C. Ferries, Brenda Eaton, chair of the B.C. Ferries board of directors and Jamie Marshall, B.C. Ferries’ vice president of shipbuilding and innovation. But that doesn’t mean the province will return to building large ferries that have most recently come from Romania or Poland, Kahlon says.

“We’re going to get the advice from the professionals we’ve put on this committee,” Kahlon said in an interview Sept. 22. “What I know is that we are doing a lot of business in the refit and repair side of things. We’re doing a lot in the maintenance.”

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The advisory committee also includes Ian McIver, president of Seaspan Marine Transportation, Riccardo Regoso, general manager of Point Hope Maritime Services in Victoria, as well as naval architect Robert Allan, an expert in tanker escort tugboats.

Allan said the federal government’s 2020 decision to build the Coast Guard’s next polar icebreaker in B.C. has “reinvigorated large shipbuilding on the West Coast” and positioned the province to become competitive in innovation and ship maintenance.

B.C. Ferries has recently converted or new-built vessels to use liquefied natural gas rather than diesel or bunker fuel, a semi-refined heavy oil that dominates world shipping. But Kahlon says the industry is looking beyond to electric and hydrogen power to eliminate carbon fuels.

He cited Richmond-based Corvus Energy, which builds marine battery systems. In August, Corvus was selected to supply the battery system for the eWolf, an 82-foot all-electric tugboat to be built in Alabama and go to work at the Port of San Diego.


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