Volume 11 | Issue 6 | Year 2008

In its storied history, which dates back to 1959, Irving Shipbuilding Inc. (ISI) has built new, high quality ships while refabricating older seafaring vessels. Headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (with primary offices and facilities situated in its Halifax Shipyard), ISI is one of Eastern Canada’s leading industrial enterprises.
Its operations target the marine, industrial manufacturing and services sectors, while its ongoing activities include world-class shipbuilding and repair, drill rig construction and conversion, and offshore fabrication. The company also offers customers supply-chain management and quality and technical services.

In its marine division, ISI builds and repairs vessels and offshore structures, all the while providing fast schedules, optimal quality and competitive pricing.

Shipbuilding services focus on small, complex vessels, such as offshore supply vessels. ISI has built harsh-environment anchor handling tugs/supply vessels that operate in the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Canadian Atlantic regions. The company’s enviable track record testifies to ISI’s ability to handle the most technologically sophisticated projects. For instance, ISI has provided optimized design of ship assist and Escort Azimuth Stern Drive (ASD) tugs, 4,000 to 5,000hp, and refined the design according to customer input. Based on a common hull design, tugs can be outfitted with a range of propulsion machinery, deck machinery and other options.

The company reports that 25 of such vessels, representing one of the market’s most successful ASD designs, have been delivered or are on order. Vessels are built either to customer specifications or placed on sale during the construction phase. Through its build methodologies, ISI accomplishes as much undercover construction, outfitting and painting as possible – an approach that enhances vessel safety and quality.

ISI has developed a new tug design to cater to bollard pulls of 80 to 100 tonnes with 8,000hp, increasing the scope of tugs available from 40 to 100 tonnes.

Further, ISI offers ship-repair services around the clock, through the year, on a daily basis. Besides this 24/7 accommodation, the company boasts the Eastern Seaboard’s most extensive arrangement of docks, slipways, steel fabrication shops, outfit and machine shops and blast and paint facilities. It’s capable of docking a range of vessels, from fishing boats to Panamax, and, in the process, successfully completing anything from emergency docking to major conversion.

Within its industrial division, ISI handles a wide range of fabrication projects, from one-off simple items to the most complex and critical pressure vessel or offshore structures – thanks to its range of steel fabrication facilities, pipe fabrication capabilities, and complete modular equipment packages. Advantages are underscored by wide-ranging applications: the segment serves oil and gas, petrochemical, power generation, pulp and paper, transportation, mining and related heavy industries.

As far as the service sector, through its affiliate, Fleetway Inc., ISI presents customers with a full-bodied list of engineering and facility services and project management expertise, offering skills that include inspection and maintenance, logistics, documentation and engineering services.

As it has evolved, ISI proved itself capable of handling major offshore projects, thanks to its large and highly skilled workforce, excellent quayside facilities, fabrication shops and lay-down areas dedicated to offshore work. Situated near many offshore specialty subcontractors, whose capabilities ISI readily engages, the company achieves rapid, comprehensive response to customer needs.

ISI’s facilities and processes are perfectly suited to offshore topside and can accommodate modules up to 3,500 tons and larger. Further, its project teams routinely produce fast, safe and optimal upgrades or conversions that enable customers to work their rigs in the most challenging offshore environments.

ISI beginnings date back to Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada in 1959, when its founder (a farsighted industrialist named K.C. Irving) bought Saint John Ltd. Shipbuilding, which was established in 1918, and eventually developed it into one of the world’s largest dry-dock facilities.

“Subsequently, Mr. Irving developed the business from a ship repair yard to a new build yard,” relates Donald Kerr, ISI’s sales and marketing manager. “Then, during the 1960s, the company began seriously branding new ships. From the 1970s to the 1980s, it built about 26 tankers.”

Other ships it built included semi-submersible drill rigs and ice breakers, among others. In 1983, it diversified from commercial vessels into frigates, according to Kerr.

Meanwhile, company development proceeded with significant acquisitions.

In 1994, the company bought the Halifax shipyard in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Kerr explains the acquisition: “At the time, we had transformed Saint John Shipyard into the most modern, medium-sized shipyard in North America, spending millions of dollars in upgrades, floor lines and panel lines. We were probably the most predominant yard in the world as far as building mega-modules up to 1,000 tons in our frigate program. However, we couldn’t compete with Southeast Asia. We could keep up with the technology, but not the labor pay rates.”

During the same period, to further compensate, the company acquired the East Isle Shipyard, a facility on Prince Edward Island that built modules for frigates.

“At the time, I wondered why we wanted to buy the Halifax Shipyard, because it had not been well maintained,” recalls Kerr. “However, Mr. Irving indicated that he’d expend the necessary capital to upgrade the facility and transform it into a modern, effective shipyard. And that’s exactly what he did.”

The company subsequently transformed East Isle into its tug yard, Kerr continues. “That’s where we build a 30-meter tug that’s sold internationally,” he says. “We later bought another company that we still own, which is located south of our headquarters and is called Shelburne Ship Repair, which repairs vessels up to 4,000 tons. That’s all it does.”

Then, to gain access into the offshore market, ISI purchased another Halifax facility called Woodside Industries. “The acquisition provided us with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean,” Kerr points out.

At the same time that ISI purchased the Halifax facility, it garnered a 12-ship minesweeper contract for the Canadian Navy. The 55-meter minesweepers are maritime coastal defense vessels. “But we delayed the contract for a month, because we wanted to inject it with the most modern methods, such as pre-outfitting and advanced planning, that we had learned through the frigate builds at the Saint John facility. We brought the production up to schedule, and that was a big success for us at the Halifax Shipyard.”

Later, ISI began building the offshore supply vessels, which as Kerr describes, are sophisticated large-anchor handling vessels. “The 85-meter vessels, equipped with 12.5 thousand horsepower engines, were so successful that we built another 722 Ls, which were 95-meter vessels. We put 500-ton winches onto those vessels, with the usual bells and whistles, and made out very well. It’s one part of the Halifax shipward business.”

Today, ISI’s main facilities include the Halifax Shipyard, which has burning, plate, outfit steel, sheet metal, pipe, machine and module shops as well as a vessel turntable and a launch way measuring 150 meters with a 65-ton berth crane.

“Also, as a big part of the Halifax business is ship repair. We have three large docks that include a large graving dock and two floating docks,” says Kerr.

The graving dock measures 173 meters by 23.5 meters, with eight meters over the block. The two floating docks include the Scotia dock (with 25,400-ton lift, and dimensions of 183 meters long by 31.5 meters wide by eight meters over the block, and 15-ton Wingwall cranes); and the Nova dock (measuring 257 meters long and 38 meters wide, with nine meters over the block and equipped with a Panamax dock with a 36,000 lift).

“The Nova dock is not only our biggest dock but our biggest selling dock, as it is reserved for the largest ships,” says Kerr.

The Woodside facility features main assembly, pipe and module shops, an expansive warehouse, a load-out wharf (measuring 229 meters), and a module assembly pad (13,600 meters). The East Isle Shipyard features module, fabrication, machine, burning, electrical and carpenter’s shops and a marine railway.

One success story that underscores ISI’s capabilities involved what it achieved with the Eric Rhaude, an enormous, fifth-generation, ultra-deep water, semi-submersible construction once situated in the Gulf of Mexico. “The company that had been working on it went bankrupt and we pulled the job up here in Canada,” explains Kerr. “We then built an entire deck module, which weighed about 2.5 thousand tons, for the South Venture field off of Nova Scotia.”

The company is currently working on an accommodation rig that became jammed under a bridge in Mobile, Ala. during Hurricane Katrina. “It’s another very high-value contract, and we’re doing the rip-out and completion. We anticipate the project to be finished in about August or September of 2009.”

Indeed, no project, whether it involves build or repair – or seafaring or offshore crafts – is too large or too complex for ISI. The company simply won’t steer away from any challenge. Further, the future course is set: With compass consulted and sextant measurements recorded, ISI sails toward new horizons.

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