Build Ferries BC: Action required for largest shipbuilding contract in B.C.

April 8, 2024

This story originally appeared in Business in Vancouver. 

Building ships with B.C. workers and high environmental standards matters.

That’s why the shipbuilding industry, local trade unions and hundreds of marine suppliers in B.C. and across Canada have joined forces to help ensure the province isn’t shut out of what will be the largest shipbuilding procurement in B.C.’s history.

Build Ferries BC believes taxpayer money should stay in Canada, but that may not happen if a foreign shipyard is chosen to build the new ferries.  

The new major vessels program

BC Ferries’ New Major Vessels program presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build ferries in B.C. and support high-value jobs and economic growth. 

The program includes seven new ferries expected to be in operation by 2029 that will replace six existing major vessels nearing their end-of-life.

Time is running out to make sure B.C. is included in this capital program. BC Ferries is developing the Request for Proposals (RFP) and plans to release it in June – only a couple months from now. Currently, this RFP may have no significant requirements for Canadian involvement and could only favour the lowest price bidder, which means a foreign shipyard will certainly win the competition. 

The provincial government and BC Ferries need to act immediately, or else these vessels might be built overseas with no provincial or Canadian content.

All of the economic benefits, tax revenue, innovation, green technology, supply chain and jobs could go to a foreign country. 

Local ships and local jobs – it’s a new era in B.C. shipbuilding

Some of the largest and most complex ships ever built in Canada are currently under construction here in B.C. 

In 2011, Seaspan was awarded the largest federal procurement in British Columbia’s history. As a strategic partner under Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy, Seaspan was chosen to build 20-plus large, complex vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard. 


When put into context, consider the sheer numbers associated with B.C.’s shipbuilding industry:

* Between 2012 and 2035, Seaspan Shipyards will contribute more than $2.5 billion in municipal and provincial government taxes 

* 5,700 jobs created or sustained in B.C. annually through Seaspan’s activities 

* $4.3 billion in contributions to B.C.’s gross domestic product 

* $3.1 billion in labour income 

A recent, independent economic analysis conducted by noted B.C. economist Teresa Watts demonstrates the additional economic value of building ferries locally: up to 9,800 jobs and $1.7 billion in associated wages. 

Cheaper is not always better

A low-cost bid project, with no incentive, points or value for the use of B.C. workers and suppliers, ensures that much or all of the work will be conducted in low-wage nations, with low environmental, safety and employment standards.

B.C.’s industry has proven expertise in large vessel shipbuilding and is an economic engine for the entire country. 

The time to act is now, before this ship sails – learn more and take action to support local shipbuilding by visiting