85-year-old Esquimalt graving dock to receive upgrades ahead of ship construction

Federal government announces $101-million investment over five years

The Esquimalt Graving Dock, where the finishing touches will be done on a future contingent of naval and Coast Guard vessels, is getting its own $101-million overhaul.

Over the next five years the money, announced in the April budget as part of the federal government’s Economic Action Plan 2012, will pay for modernization and restoration to the dock, built in 1927 and owned by Public Works and Government Services Canada.

Victoria Shipyards, owned by Seaspan Marine Corp., bases its operations at the site and regularly uses the drydock to repair and overhaul Royal Canadian Navy ships, B.C. Ferries vessels and cruise ships, among others.

Last fall Seaspan was awarded an $8-billion contract to construct new non-combat naval and Canadian Coast Guard vessels, under the National Shipbuilding Strategy. While much of the work will be done at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards, the new ships will be completed at Victoria Shipyards.

“This $101-million investment will … ensure that (Public Works and Government Services Canada) fulfills its obligations to all ship-repair companies booking the facility over the long term, which includes any work that may come from the National Shipbuilding Strategy,” a public works spokesperson told the News.

Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, said in her funding announcement June 27 that government’s priority is the economy and job creation.

“By supporting the ship repair and shipbuilding industry on Canada’s Pacific Coast, we are creating local jobs and generating long-term economic benefits for British Columbia,” she said.

The federal department will soon announce specific work projects planned for “various aging portions of the facility, including electrical modernization and infrastructure upgrades,” the department spokesperson said.

The Esquimalt Graving Dock is the largest deep-sea shipbuilding and repair facility on Canada’s West Coast. It generates $183 million in economic spinoffs in B.C. every year, and supports about 1,300 jobs in the Greater Victoria area.

emccracken@vicnews.com