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Newfoundland design company enters teaming agreement on Arctic icebreaker shipbuilding pitch

Newfoundland and Labrador company Genoa Design International has entered into an exclusive teaming agreement with Seaspan Shipyard for 3D modeling and production design services as part of a bid to build the Canadian Coast Guard’s next polar icebreaker. — GENOADESIGN.COM
Newfoundland and Labrador company Genoa Design International has entered into an exclusive teaming agreement with Seaspan Shipyard for 3D modeling and production design services as part of a bid to build the Canadian Coast Guard’s next polar icebreaker. — GENOADESIGN.COM

A Newfoundland and Labrador design company whose growth has been fueled by the federal government's National Shipbuilding Strategy hopes to soon get another opportunity to make an impression.

Seaspan Shipyards and Genoa Design announced a teaming agreement in a news release issued Wednesday. Seaspan, based in Vancouver, B.C., is building non-combat vessels for government as part of the national strategy. The company is close to completing its third offshore fisheries science vessel and is also working on an offshore oceanographic science vessel, joint support ships, medium endurance multi-tasked vessels and offshore patrol vessels.

The new teaming agreement with Genoa Design for 3D modeling and production design services concerns Seaspan's bid to regain the contract to replace Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Louis S. St-Laurent — the only ship in the Canadian fleet capable of year-round operations in the Arctic. That job was initially part of the deal when government named Seaspan an initial strategic partner in 2011 for the multibillion-dollar strategy alongside Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax. The latter company was tasked to build six Arctic and offshore patrol ships (AOPS) and 15 new warships for the navy in Nova Scotia.

Last year, Ottawa decided it would re-open bidding to replace the icebreaker. In December, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) announced Chantier Davie Canada, a shipbuilder in Quebec, had been pre-qualified to become the third strategic partner for the strategy in order to build six program icebreakers. That company has also publically expressed its interest in the contract to replace CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent with the eventual CCGS John G. Diefenbaker.

Vote of confidence

Genoa Design International CEO Gina Pecore. — CONTRIBUTED - Contributed
Genoa Design International CEO Gina Pecore. — CONTRIBUTED - Contributed

Gina Pecore, CEO for Genoa Design, said the teaming agreement and vote of confidence from Seaspan means a lot to her company, which has grown from 20 employees to more than 220 since joining the shipbuilder's supply chain in 2014. Genoa has designed five vessels for Seaspan.

"This signifies the next step in an ongoing, very strong relationship with Seaspan," Pecore told The Telegram. "Seaspan has been extremely conscientious in working with Genoa to support our maturity in this program, and it opened the door to what's next. And what's next for us is that polar icebreaker."

Seaspan has invested $185 million in its shipyard. In the new release, the company stated it was "purpose-built" to deliver the polar icebreaker, adding its workforce, facilities and capacity make it the only shipyard in Canada capable of meeting the 2029 deadline to deliver CCGS John G. Diefenbaker.

"I would say we have a very high degree of confidence that we are the right partner for government," said Seaspan CEO Mark Lamarre. "And with respect to delivering (the icebreaker) on time and to the Canadian requirements, irrespective of what other companies' marketing claims might be, I would say I can explain what it takes to be successful in meeting this challenge.

“You need a modern shipyard that meets the Government of Canada's target state requirements and a level of investment. We need a continued investment in the shipyard to ensure that we are up to date with current technologies and that our work force is trained. We need a hot production line ... we're delivering our third ship and working on our fourth."

He pointed to a third-party study on capacity at the shipyard as proof it can handle everything already on its plate while also working to complete the polar icebreaker.

"We're the only shipyard in Canada that has the work force capabilities, capacity, pan-Canadian supply chain and we're the only shipyard that can build the icebreaker entirely in Canada by Canadians on the Canadian Coast Guard's urgent timeline," Lamarre said.

Newfoundland connections

Seaspan Shipyards CEO Mark Lamarre - Contributed
Seaspan Shipyards CEO Mark Lamarre - Contributed

Seaspan announced in June another team player for the polar icebreaker pitch with ties to Newfoundland and Labrador. Heddle Shipyards has a teaming agreement with Seaspan to fabricate ship modules at its three Ontario shipyards. The agreement would provide some work related to the strategy program to Heddle's site in Mount Pearl, where Genoa Design is also based.

Lamarre characterized his company's relationship with Genoa Design as a trusted partnership.

"I would say we share common interests in investment and technology and our approaches to management," he said, adding Genoa's project-specific capabilities make the company a good fit for working on the polar icebreaker. Genoa is also a sub-contractor for the United States' Polar Security Program.

Pecore said continuing to build on its relationship with Seaspan is not only important to the company's growth in Newfoundland and Labrador, but also to fellow sub-contractors in the province that have built their businesses up through work with the offshore oil and gas sector.

"There's a lot of capacity and a lot of expertise that fits here in terms of supply chain and ice expertise," Pecore said. "We've proven, over the past, almost a decade now, that we've been able to grow through some pretty difficult times by building close partnerships with our customers, and in particular with Seaspan, and then leverage that to more export potential. It's so important to us that we have long-term relationships with our customers in this way."

PSPC issued a request for information in February for the polar icebreaker build. Lamarre said everything is in place to start design work early next year if Seaspan is successful.

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