Point Hope expansion spending could reach $60 million

Source: The Times Colonist
Author: Carla Wilson
Date: May 28, 2014

Now that the company which had been leasing the Point Hope Maritime site in Vic West has purchased the land, its new owner estimates expansion investment could total $60 million.

“We are much more masters of our own destiny now that we own our own property,” said Ian Maxwell, head of Ralmax Group of Companies, which includes Point Hope, United Engineering, Harjim Enterprises, and Island Plate and Steel, all located on the site.

The Harbour Road property was previously owned by the City of Victoria. It was part of a land sale and swap announced in February involving Victoria, the province of B.C. and Ralmax. The provincial-city agreement included Crystal Garden and property at Ship Point.

Expansion plans will allow Point Hope and its sister companies to increase capacity and support jobs, further strengthen the region’s manufacturing sector, and reinforce that location as part of the working harbour.

Maxwell had long wanted to buy the property. He purchased the assets of the financially troubled shipyard in 2003. He subsequently invested about $18 million to modernize the facility, including building a new marine railway with three spur lines and a new pier.

The site covers 9.07 acres of land and 1.97 acres of water, bringing the total owned to 11.04 acres. Plus, there’s a 2.8-acre water lease from Transport Canada, for a grand total of 13.8 acres.

More development is on the horizon.

“The sale gives us the confidence that we can build a new United Engineering-Harjim Enterprises building. So now we are ready to invest in equipment and people,” he said Wednesday.

That purpose-built structure would also house Island Plate and Steel. Relocating and consolidating those operations will make room for three or four new spur lines on the marine railway.

Maxwell is hoping that the work can be completed within two years. He estimates that the recent land purchase and hoped-for improvements could total $60 million.

Already the company has invested in a new beam line, a machine linked to a computer which sends instructions on how to process sections of structural steel, said Dave Bukovec, general manager of United Engineering and Harjim. It saves many hours of work and frees up staff to do other tasks.

A $1.5-million trestle to go over water has been manufactured to be used in the construction of the liquefied natural gas project in Kitimat, he said. Most of it has already been trucked north.

Maxwell is hoping for further LNG work.

“We are trying to build relationships up there and we are trying to set ourselves up as efficiently as we can,” he said.

The land purchase has revived plans for a 170-metre-long graving dock that could handle all but the largest B.C. Ferries vessels.

Construction of this facility would be driven by a major contract, he said.

Details are still in progress but the goal is to demolish the collection of old buildings that have been added on to over the many years Point Hope has operated on the property. Demolition permits for four old buildings have been taken out at city hall.

Still undecided is the future of the existing assembly hall building on the north end of the site and of the former Undersea Gardens, which was purchased by Maxwell and moved to Harbour Road.

Further environmental advances are also anticipated.

A new water-treatment system was installed after Maxwell bought Point Hope assets and future plans call for an improved system reflecting subsequent technological advances.

Storm drains running into the harbour have been blocked off and the grade of the land was altered so that it no longer sloped down to the harbour, said Sam Johnson, Point Hope engineering superintendent.

The triple-stage treatment system cleans water to the point where it can be discharged into the harbour.

Maxwell expects that ship repair and engineering work will continue to be carried out on the site.

He is not anticipating moving into shipbuilding, saying maintenance and repair is where the yard has its expertise.