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Ontario Shipyards Shuts Down its Thunder Bay Facility

Thunder Bay
Fabmar Thunder Bay (file image courtesy Ontario Shipyards)

Published Apr 17, 2024 4:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

Canadian firm Ontario Shipyards has decided to shutter its plant at Thunder Bay, citing a shortage of workers and a slow market. 

In 2020, Ontario Shipyards (then known as Heddle Shipyards) entered an agreement with Vancouver shipbuilder Seaspan to construct blocks for the future two-ship Polar Icebreaker program, part of Canada's National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS). The following year, Heddle bought a yard in Thunder Bay - Fabmar Metals - and equipped it for building ship modules. 

Because of delays at Seaspan, the Canadian government reopened the NSS to a new round of shipyard bids, intending to bring in more capacity to build the icebreaker program. It selected Quebec's Davie Shipyards to join the effort, and it awarded one polar icebreaker to Seaspan and one polar icebreaker to Davie. Seaspan has been progressing with R&D operations to support its side of the project, including building a test block, and it plans to begin building the first production block this year. 

The impact of the divided icebreaker contract on Ontario Shipyards is unclear, but Ontario has decided to mothball its facility at Thunder Bay. The site remains fully equipped and ready to turn on again at a moment's notice, but 15 workers were laid off, according to local media. 

Ontario Shipyards also operates two other locations in Port Weller and Hamilton, Ontario. It has invested heavily in equipment and workforce training at these sites, and they remain open.