The first of two New Zealand frigates has arrived in Victoria for an upgrade of key defence systems.
Work starts on the 387-foot Te Kaha at Victoria Shipyards in Esquimalt this spring and will continue through this year. The shipyard is owned by North Vancouver-based Seaspan, which also owns Vancouver Shipyards and Vancouver Drydock.
The second frigate, the Te Mana, is scheduled to pull into Esquimalt next year for similar work.
Seaspan was awarded the frigate systems upgrade project as a subcontractor to Lockheed Martin Canada, New Zealand’s prime system integrator, which is responsible for the supply of the combat system upgrade on both ships, as well as a new shore-based trainer.
The warships will see their weapons and communications systems upgraded.
Work includes radar and targeting systems, a combat management system and a number of other improvements, the New Zealand Defence Force said.
Seaspan won the job after Victoria Shipyards upgraded and modernized five Halifax-class Canadian frigates.
Joe O’Rourke, vice-president and general manager of Victoria Shipyards said: “This project from Lockheed Martin Canada, in addition to our existing contracts with both government and commercial customers, means that Victoria Shipyards is now more than 90 per cent booked through until 2020.
“This is an important achievement for Seaspan and ensures that we can continue to offer well-paid, skilled jobs in the Greater Victoria area.”
The company expects up to 200 jobs will be created directly by Seaspan and indirectly as the company uses 100 companies on this project.
The New Zealand Herald newspaper reported the total cost to upgrade the two warships is at $639 million.
For Seaspan, the contract is significant because it gives the yard the opportunity to work on a foreign military vessel.
Victoria Shipyards is celebrating completing the first stage of work on the North Star, an Alaskan cargo ship, which is here for 60 days.
It is one of two similar vessels coming here to be converted from diesel fuel to a dual-fuel system that also uses liquefied natural gas.
Tote Maritime Alaska’s decision to bring its vessels to Victoria Shipyards is seen as significant, not only for Seaspan which is keen to enter the dual-fuel conversion market, but also for B.C.’s ability to carry out this kind of work on other contracts.
Each visit by the North Star and its sister ship, the Midnight Sun, creates six-days-a-week work for 300 to 400 people for two months, Seaspan, the shipyard’s owners, said in a statement. Three more visits will be needed to complete the work, to be finished in early 2021.