Victoria’s Point Hope shipyard charts bright future

Source: Times Colonist
Author: Carla Wilson
Date: June 4, 2015

The future of Point Hope Maritime was bleak in the summer of 1985, when owners shut it all down. It was a time when coastal shipyards were battling for financial survival as repair work all but evaporated.

Thirty years later, after ups and downs and ownership changes, the Vic West shipyard is still operating on the Victoria’s Upper Harbour.

But it is facing a completely different kind of problem. Point Hope is operating at peak capacity and “unfortunately, we’re having to turn business away,” said Sage Berryman, chief operating officer for Victoria’s Ralmax Group of Companies, owner of the shipyard.

It’s the fourth time this year that Point Hope has run out of room and workers to fix ships, Berryman said Wednesday.

That’s why Point Hope is positioning itself for a planned two-phase modernization project that will allow it to operate more efficiently, repair more vessels and add jobs. That means the 60 people working at the yard this week could climb to 300 as ship repair and maintenance capacity grows, Berryman said.

Renderings of Point Hope’s ambitious plans will be on display Sunday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Vic West Street Fest on Harbour Road, which is closed to vehicles for the event. Tours of the shipyard and of the neighbouring Dockside Green residential development are being offered. Parking is limited, but Harbour Ferries will carry visitors from its dock at the Steamship Terminal on Belleville Street to the Dockside Landing dock.

First on Ralmax’s redevelopment plan for Point Hope is to build a 30,000-square-foot metal fabrication plant that will cost about $10 million, Berryman said.

United Engineering, Harjim Enterprises and Island Plate and Steel — all Ralmax companies — will be consolidated in the new building.

The existing assembly hall will remain in place. Ralmax bought Point Hope’s assets in 2003 after the yard went bankrupt. Last year, Ralmax fulfilled a goal of buying the land.

Its modernization project can’t happen until construction on the new Johnson Street Bridge is complete. The bridge is slated to be open to traffic in January 2017.

A southern piece of Point Hope’s land is being used as a bridge laydown area for temporary storage of equipment and supplies. It’s not certain when that land will be freed up for the new Point Hope building. But “we are going to move forward as quickly as possible,” Berryman said.

Upgrading plans include three new spur lines used to move ships around the yard at various stages. A group of old buildings will come down to make room.

An environmental study is also in the works.

Ralmax has already spent $18 million at the site.

The second stage of the project will see a 185-metre-long floating graving dock built near the fabrication building. Construction of that facility would be driven by consistent demand from major customers, Berryman said.

Hank Bekkering, Point Hope’s general manager, said vessels are generally getting longer and wider, with deeper drafts. Tugs have also grown in size and that will continue in order to meet the escort requirements for LNG/Crude tankers in the future, he said. The Canadian Coast Guard has recently added two new vessels, which Point Hope can handle, Bekkering added.

Point Hope’s new graving dock and facilities would also be able to service some of the vessels in B.C. Ferries’ fleet, including the three intermediate-sized ferries currently being built in Poland.