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Ship project employs almost 100
« on: April 29, 2012, 10:20:37 AM »
Ship project employs almost 100

By Don Fraser, QMI Agency
Tuesday, April 17, 2012 6:26:33 EDT PM

ST. CATHARINES - Seaway Marine Industrial’s dry docks are near full throttle, with 96 workers now employed on a major retrofit, says a company official.

And over the summer, about 150 workers plus 90 local sub-contractors will be needed as work on the HMCS Athabaskan gears up.

Earlier this year, the Port Weller facility was awarded a $21.7-million federal contract to refit the 39-year-old Iroquois-class destroyer based in Halifax.

“Things are charged up,” said Charlie Payne, director of operations at the dry docks.

“The seniority roll has been exhausted,” Payne said of the employment situation. “Everybody who wants to come back is back. Nobody’s on layoff.”

He said the Athabaskan arrived March 26, and the work will continue until the first week in November.

So far, tasks have mostly involved removing ship fuel and setting up a cradle to keep the vessel in place.

The ship should be moored inside the dry dock by Wednesday.

Payne said some additional local hiring is expected over the summer involving both members of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, which represents most of the hourly workers at the dry docks, and temporary employment agencies.

Most of those extra jobs will be in general maintenance positions for tasks like painting and cleaning.

Another 40 salaried employees are working at the facility full-time.

The Athabaskan was built at Davie Shipbuilding in Lauzon, Que.

It helped support a multinational naval blockade following the Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

As the flagship of Canada’s Naval Task Group, it enforced UN sanctions and later took part in Operation Desert Storm, which liberated Kuwait.

The work at Seaway Marine is part of a five-year scheduled maintenance cycle.

The refit will include underwater work, as well as comprehensive maintenance and repairs on ship systems, such as firefighting and electrical systems, as well as deck equipment.

All weapons material was removed prior to the project starting.

Payne said there’s no scheduled work following the Athabaskan contract.

However, another destroyer, HMCS Iroquois, is up for a refit in 2014. Seaway Marine intends to bid for that contract next year.

“We’re actively seeking other work in the late fall and winter,” Payne added.

St. Catharines MP Rick Dykstra hailed the contract as proof of the dry docks’ technical prowess and ability.

“The expertise of our workforce puts our community in a unique position, as compared to any other across our country,” Dykstra said. “We will compete and I have every confidence we will continue to win.”

To assist Seaway Marine’s bid on the Athabaskan deal, the province put up a financial surety to provide a work performance guarantee.

© 2012 Thorold Niagara News. All rights reserved. Thorold Niagara News is a member of the Canoe Network.