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Point Hope aims to expand

Shipyard completes biggest project in 15 years
B.C. Ferries' Quadra Queen II is almost finished after seven months of repair work at Point Hope Maritime Shipyard. In under two weeks

Inside United Engineering’s warehouse, the guts of B.C. Ferries’ Quadra Queen II sprawl.

Point Hope Maritime’s general manager passes by the propellor on his way to the shipyard, where the 49.6-metre ferry waits on its spur line.

“Like a butterfly from a cocoon,” the vessel is due to emerge from its white plastic wrapping in two weeks, said Hank Bekkering.

The unveiling marks the wrap up to the shipyard’s largest contract in 15 years. Worth between $7.5 million to $10.5 million (B.C. Ferries doesn’t disclose the figure), the eight-month project helped to compensate for an otherwise slow year.

There were 38 dockings in 2010 compared to 50 the year previous at Port Hope.

Bekkering called the dip nothing more than a recession blip. He’s confident there’s enough work to warrant a significant investment in the site.

Ralmax Group of Companies, which owns the three businesses on the 3.7-hectare site, is aiming for a $10-million to $20-million capital investment.

In August, the city’s lease to Carmanah Technologies ends, potentially opening up space. The Sail and Life Training Society occupies the neighbouring property.

“We are hoping to stay on the site,” said Loren Hagerty, SALTS executive director.

“The mayor (Dean Fortin) has said he’s asked Point Hope Maritime to accommodate us.”

The location is ideal, because the shipyard’s haul-out facilities are available for the non-profit’s use, said Hagerty. “We are marine industrial, so we need waterfront access.”

Every year, SALTS has about 40 boats donated which helps to fund its sailing programs for youth at subsidized prices.

Bekkering assures the company will “work something out” with SALTS.

“We hope to sign the option to lease in the very near future,” he said.

The option would give the company one year to complete its business case and seek building permits before committing to the new lease with the city.

Expansion plans also include a fourth and fifth spur line, connecting outstretched wharf fingers to a central turntable.

“All of this would be gone,” said Bekkering, sweeping his arm to indicate the building housing United Engineering, and Island Plate and Steel.

Bigger facilities could accommodate more vessels and potentially double the number of employees and subcontractors to 300 from 150 per year, he said.

“I believe we are as efficient or more efficient than the other yards so that gives me great confidence that we can capture the share of the market that we need.”