Supplier Spotlight: Bringing Canadians Home with Duke Marine

March 7, 2024

“Would you like to come home to Canada?”

Sonia Logue has proudly posed this question numerous times over the past four years. As the Co-founder and President of Duke Marine Smart Staffing Solutions in Burlington, Ontario, she has been charged with recruiting exceptional individuals to work for Seaspan as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS).

“Many people left the country years ago to find shipbuilding work elsewhere, because there just wasn’t jobs for them in Canada. But we were able to contact them and say ‘there’s a shipbuilding program underway that could provide you with work for 20-30 years, are you interested?’ They jumped at the chance to be close to family again.”

For many, it was a full circle moment, as it was Logue’s company that initially found them employment in the United States and other countries after they graduated university, and now she is able to help them finish their careers back home in Canada.

Group of people around boardroom table

(Employees at Duke’s Mount Pearl office in Newfoundland and Labrador)

Duke Smart Staffing Solutions inked their inaugural contract with Seaspan in 2020 and has since provided approximately 150 staff, primarily design engineers specializing in various fields, such as structural, piping, electrical and HVAC. These skilled individuals are now applying their expertise at Seaspan, contributing to the NSS by constructing the Navy’s Joint Support Ships, as well as the Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel, Polar Icebreaker and the Multi-Purpose Vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard.

“Creating Canadian jobs is important. We experienced a surge in the Canadian shipbuilding sector, followed by a downturn. As a result, we lost a lot of that expertise to other countries. Now, with the focus on the National Shipbuilding Strategy and prioritizing Canadian workers and businesses, companies from coast to coast are able to retain and grow that technology and those jobs within Canada,” explains Sherry Colville, Duke’s Senior Vice President, Operations.

To assist in attracting top-tier candidates from the East Coast, many of whom are graduates of the esteemed Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Duke established an office in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland approximately two years ago. The Mount Pearl team is entirely devoted to Seaspan’s work within the NSS and is led by a group of skilled women who know how to achieve results.

“We’ve cultivated a strong partnership with Seaspan and have become a trusted ally. They understand the importance of having skilled personnel, and they trust that we can deliver,” explains Logue. The company is now owned and operated by women, collaborating with clients in the oil & gas, aerospace, and defence sectors across Canada and globally, alongside their work with Seaspan.

Sherry and Sonia headshots

(Sherry Colville, Senior Vice President of Operations and Sonia Logue, Co-founder and President of Duke Marine)

The women at the helm have made their mark and continue to bring distinctive viewpoints and expertise to an industry still largely dominated by men, particularly at the executive level. They have paved the way for other women to follow in their footsteps, and emphasize that diversity, equity and inclusion are central to their operations, along with offering mentorship to the next generation of leaders.

And, they don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. In 2022, they established the Duke Marine Award at the Fisheries and Marine Institute at Memorial University of Newfoundland to commemorate the company’s expansion into Newfoundland and Labrador. This annual award recognizes a Canadian student enrolled in either the Marine Engineering Systems Design program or the Naval Architecture program at the Institute.

“We are a family-oriented business, so supporting families is part of who we are. Our objective is to continue to get Canadians working in Canada, and the NSS allows us to make that happen,” says Logue.

“For 25 years, we’ve been sending staff to other countries, and now they have the opportunity to come home.”