Irving Shipbuilding wins federal combat vessel contract

Posted on October 28, 2011 | Atlantic Business Magazine | 0 Comments

Irving Shipbuilding wins federal combat vessel contract, sparking celebrations across Nova Scotia

Halifax’s ship has come in — actually, many ships. Irving Shipbuilding is celebrating a $25-billion federal contract to construct 21 combat vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy. And the rest of Nova Scotia is celebrating as well.

“On behalf of the men and women of Irving Shipbuilding, we are honoured to be chosen by Canada to build the Navy’s new combat vessel fleet for those who serve and we look forward to successful negotiations in the coming months,” said Jim Irving, CEO of Irving Shipbuilding.

“We’d like to assure the government of Canada, and all Canadians, that we will continue to devote our efforts to building quality vessels for our men and women in uniform and delivering best value to Canadians for this important investment, one that will provide economic benefits across Canada.”

The combat package was the biggest chunk of a massive shipbuilding infrastructure pie up for grabs. Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd. was the other winner, securing an $8-billion package for non-combat vessels. Ottawa says the work is expected to span 20 to 30 years. According to the feds, this is “the largest procurement sourcing arrangement in Canadian history.” (A Quebec shipyard was the only bidder to come away emptyhanded.)

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter called the announcement “a defining moment in Nova Scotia’s history.” According to provincial government estimates, the contract will mean an additional 11,500 jobs for Nova Scotians and will increase the province’s GDP by almost $900 million during peak production years. “The future starts here,” Dexter said.

The contract win followed an outpouring of support from both within Nova Scotia and beyond. A website for the so-called Ships Start Here campaign received close to one million views, according to the government. More than 10,000 people across Canada pinned messages of encouragement online, and lawns were dotted with Ships Start Here signs.

“To every Nova Scotian and Canadian who put up a lawn sign, put a pin on the electronic map or sent us words of encouragement, we can’t thank you enough — the workers of Irving Shipbuilding are incredibly touched by your interest and your support,” Irving said.

The Harper government took great pains to stress that the shipbuilding decision would be made on merit by the civil service, treading gingerly around a potential political landmine. In fact, Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself only found out the results 15 minutes before the formal announcement, according to a tweet from spokesman Andrew MacDougall.

Irving Shipbuilding will now enter into contract negotiations with the federal government. Shipbuilding production could start by the end of 2012, the province says.

The Halifax shipyard has been in operation since 1889. It’s a long history, and a future that now seems secure.

By Rob Antle

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