Seaspan and the NSPS: On time, on budget

Having just passed the two-year mark of submitting one of the winning bids for the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), Seaspan
is in the throes of a modernization program that, when finished, will have used 2.2 million pounds of rebar and 3,200 truckloads of concrete to prepare the shipyards for cutting steel in 2014. In the meantime, work continues with new builds, refits, and repair work at both Vancouver and Victoria Shipyards.

Modernization Program

Seaspan Marine’s John Shaw, Vice President, Government Relations and Business Development, reported that the Modernization Program is going
“swimmingly well”. On budget and on time, the work to modernize Vancouver Shipyards is expected to be complete by October 2014. “In fact, we’re actually ahead of the required date for the government,” said Shaw. “Within a year from now, all the buildings will be done, the crane will be up and we’ll be using the facilities to build the non-combat ships for Canada.”

Running through the list of projects at Vancouver Shipyards, Shaw reported that:

  • The Sub Assembly building is nearing completion and should be occupied before Christmas.
  • The Block Assembly building foundation has been poured and, at the time of writing, the steel frame was being erected and siding added
  • Foundations for the new Pre-Outfit building and the crane are being poured.
  • The last foundation to be poured will be for the new Paint and Blast facility.
  • With the permit from Port Metro Vancouver issued in April, 2013, the Load-Out Pier is under construction and is on budget and on schedule.
  • A 300-tonne Gantry crane will be delivered in January and will be complete by April (colour: royal blue).

Shaw was also excited to note that another change at Vancouver Shipyard relates to their transportation system within the yard. “Previously, every – thing was rail-based but with the new shipbuilding program, we bought self- propelled modular transporters. These are multi-wheeled platforms that are being used to move barges and ships around the yard.”

At Victoria Shipyards, the site for the B1 building — the new operations centre — has been excavated and work is underway. Pile driving should be started by the time this article goes to print and the facility will be substantially complete by November 2014.

That represents a large chunk of the $200 million budget being spent on the facilities and it also represents an update to all the equipment and the shipyard,” said Shaw. “In addition to that, there is a significant amount of work to update processes — all the computer systems, standard operating procedures, the software that we use for design, and the management of the design. It’s making sure we have all the processes and procedures in place all the way from actual production through to engineering, supply chain, and human resources.” Shaw noted that this portion of the modernization program would be ready for First Marine International scheduled review in February, 2015.

Within a year from now, all the buildings will be done, the crane will be up and we’ll be using the facilities to build the non-combat ships for Canada.

Update on shipyard activity

Even with the upheaval of the modernization project, Seaspan continues on with current naval contracts, refits, repairs and new builds for the commercial industry.

Shaw expressed great pride and satisfaction with Seaspan’s work in support of the Royal Canadian Navy. The two programs currently with Victoria Shipyards — the Frigate Life Extension Project (FELEX) and the Victoria In-Service Support Contract (VISSC) – are both moving forward as scheduled.

Under the FELEX, work on HMCS Vancouver — the third vessel in the program following work on HMCS Calgary and HMCS Winnipeg — is now under way and on schedule. She arrived at the shipyard in April this year and will be delivered back to the Navy by next April. Once Victoria Shipyards has completed all of the updates to the plat – form systems (typically a 12-month work period), the vessel will then be delivered back to Lockheed Martin and the Navy for completion of the combat systems upgrade. “The one unique thing about that project,” said Shaw, “is that there are ongoing meetings between our – selves, Lockheed Martin, Irving Shipbuilding and the government to look at lessons learned, and to pass on lessons learned — right from HMCS Halifax (the first vessel done at Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax) through to HMCS Vancouver .” HMCS Ottawa and HMCS Regina are the remaining two vessels scheduled for the FELEX on the West Coast.

Victoria Shipyards is also keeping on schedule with work on Canada’s Victoria-Class submarines under the VISSC. Having completed work on HMCS Victoria (which is now back at sea), HMCS Chicoutimi “should be getting wet as we speak”, and HMCS Corner Brook has already moved into the purpose- built facility at VicShip.

And if this isn’t enough, Victoria Shipyards continues to do ship repair work, and is preparing for a visit from the Grand Princess cruise ship before the end of the year. “Victoria Shipyards is doing a phenomenal job in planning and coordinating all of the work ahead of them,” said Shaw. “They have earned a reputation of excellence within the cruise industry and continue to get one or two cruise ships a year.”

Staffing levels at Victoria Shipyards, currently at 800, will rise significantly — by as much as 1,000 — for about five to 10 days while the Princess ship is in for work.

The one remaining potential piece of work is with HMCS Algonquin which was involved in an incident with HMCS Protecteur while conducting towing exercises. At press time, the RCN was undergoing a damage assessment before making plans for where the work would be done.

At Vancouver Shipyards — where the bulk of the modernization project is focused — staff continue to construct chip barges for the Seaspan fleet and undertake ship repair for third-party, commercial customers.

While plans are still in the very early stages for the recently announced additional 10 vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard (see Page 25), for NSPS work already underway, the three Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels will be constructed first. “We’re in the early design stages,” said Shaw. “We’ve conducted a design review of the original designs provided by government and are now moving into the functional design stage where we actually lay out all the spaces, specify the equipment, and then start ordering it.” Following that stage, Seaspan will then move into production design where a 3-D model is generated to allow them to verify any conflicts between piping and ducting, wiring and ship structure. “This improves efficiency once you start building. It also allows you to specify length of pipe, length of cable, ducting, etc., to a much greater detail so you get a much better price and reduce risk significantly.”

Shaw expects that design work for the Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (OOSV) will start later next year and will go through much the same process as the OFSV.

And while an announcement is imminent, there is still no word on which large vessel under the NSPS contract — the Joint Supply Ship or the Polar Icebreaker — would be built first. “The government is going through a review and assessment and we have sup – ported them in a number of tasks on that and have put forward our analysis to help them with their decision-making,” said Shaw. “We expect a decision in the early fall and it will lead to starting construction of a large ship in 2016.”

With the Canadian Government’s decision to use the Berlin-Class design for the Joint Supply Ship (JSS), Shaw noted that using a proven design reduces any ambiguity and risk but will essentially go through the same process to incorporate changes needed to build it at Vancouver Shipyards.

Shaw further indicated that Seaspan would continue to pursue additional commercial work as much as possible and have responded to the Denman Cable ferry RFP as well as the RFP for the new intermediate-class ferries.

Keeping staffing levels fairly consistent in anticipation of the work for the first Fisheries vessel, Vancouver Shipyards currently has about 200 staff (not including those involved with the modernization project). That is expected to ramp up to about 350 once the OFSV is ready for production, and then up to about 1,000 once construction starts on the large ships.