Province to appoint committee to guide long-term shipbuilding strategy

A joint support ship under construction at Seaspan’s Vancouver shipyards in August 2021. || B.C. government photo
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The B.C. government will appoint an advisory committee to help develop a long-term provincial shipbuilding strategy to promote the growth of the sector.

The BC Shipbuilding Advisory Committee will recommend strategic actions for government and industry to support robust, sustainable and innovative shipbuilding, ship repair and related marine industries, according to a media release from the province.

“The shipbuilding industry has been a key contributor to B.C.’s economy for more than 130 years,” said Premier John Horgan. “There is an opportunity to leverage the recent revival in B.C.’s marine sector to set up the entire industry for consistent growth, which means more families will be able to find good jobs in their own communities.”

The strategy will have four main objectives: 

-build and support the capacity and competitiveness of B.C. shipyards to win more shipbuilding contracts, as well as refit-repair and maintenance work;

-advance innovation including low-carbon technologies to help B.C. become a hub of green, low-carbon marine vessels;

-expand B.C.’s market share and opportunities related to shipbuilding and supply chains.

-support marine workforce development by addressing labour shortages, equity and inclusion in the industry.

“A comprehensive shipbuilding strategy will allow B.C. to take full advantage of our coastal strengths and build a healthier, more sustainable marine economy,” said Ravi Kahlon, minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation. “The BC Shipbuilding Advisory Committee will help ensure our industrial marine sector is a global leader and poised for long-term growth that is innovative and inclusive.”

The committee will be composed of two separate bodies: the BC Shipbuilding Industry Working Group and the BC Shipbuilding Innovation Advisory Council.

The BC Shipbuilding Industry Working Group, chaired by Robert Allan, president of the Association of BC Marine Industries (ABCMI), is made up of sector experts. The group includes major players in the industry who will have an active role in advancing sector initiatives in the near and longer term, according to the province.

“The federal government’s recent decision to award the contract for Canada’s next polar icebreaker to Seaspan Shipyards demonstrates how the federal National Shipbuilding Strategy has reinvigorated large shipbuilding on the West Coast and, by extension, is providing the B.C. marine industry the opportunity to adjust to the new global maritime dynamic, focused on environmental consciousness in ship design, shipbuilding, ship repair and vessel maintenance. It is gratifying to see the provincial government is committed to seeing growth and progressive development in this vitally important sector of the B.C. economy,” Allan said.

The BC Shipbuilding Innovation Advisory Council, chaired by Brenda Eaton, chair of BC Ferry Services’ board of directors, will provide high-level guidance and objective feedback to the industry working group. The council will also advise on engagement and consultation with stakeholders. It includes senior representation from the B.C. and federal governments, labour and academia, according to the release.

Indigenous partners will be engaged throughout the strategy development process to ensure their perspectives are heard and the positive impacts of strategy activities are inclusive of Indigenous communities.

The BC Shipbuilding Advisory Committee will deliver a final report and recommendations to the B.C. government in summer 2022.

B.C. is home to over 1,000 companies that make up the industrial marine sector that includes shipbuilding, refit, repair, maintenance and supply chain activities. The sector, driven by shipbuilding contracts such as Seaspan Shipyards’ federal polar icebreaker project, contributes $3.7 billion to the province’s economy and supports over 33,000 jobs, according to the province.

The provincial government committed to the development of a made-in-B.C. shipbuilding strategy in this year’s throne speech, expanding on its mandate to support the increase of capacity, capability and competitiveness for B.C. shipyards and associated businesses.

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