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Ontario Shipyards idles its Thunder Bay facility


Ontario Shipyards has temporarily idled its facility in Thunder Bay, citing market conditions and the availability of skilled labour. Some 15 workers were laid off earlier this year.

“Despite these challenging conditions, we remain committed to revitalizing Ontario’s shipbuilding and ship repair industry, including in Thunder Bay,” Ted Kirkpatrick, director of business development and government relations, told The Chronicle-Journal newspaper in Thunder Bay.

He stressed that Ontario Shipyards does not plan to divest from the Thunder Bay shipyard and remains committed to the city community. “We continue to actively pursue a number of high-potential shipbuilding opportunities for the Thunder Bay Shipyard, and we still see the Thunder Bay shipyard as playing a key role in supporting shipbuilding activities in Ontario and across Canada.”

During the summer of 2021, Ontario Shipyards, formerly Heddle Shipyards, purchased Fabmar Metals and moved their equipment onto the shipyard site as part of the development plan. At the same time, the federal government advanced with construction plans for two Canadian Coast Guard polar icebreakers under the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS).

Ontario Shipyards had in 2020 entered into an agreement with Vancouver shipbuilder Seaspan to construct blocks for the future Polar Icebreaker program.

But due to delays at Seaspan, the Canadian government reopened the NSS to a new round of shipyard bids, intending to bring in more capacity to pursue the icebreaker program. It selected Quebec’s Davie Shipyards to join the effort, subsequently awarding one polar icebreaker contract to Seaspan and the other to Davie.

Based in Hamilton, Ontario Shipyards also operates shipyards in Port Weller and Hamilton.

(Photo of Ontario Shipyards shipyard in Thunder Bay)