Thunder Bay shipyard operator keen on future: Heddle Marine aligning projects to drive marine business to the northwest.

Author:Ross, Ian
Position:Thunder Bay

It's been a learning curve for the new owners of a Thunder Bay shipyard.

Over the winter, Heddle Marine Services handled its first ship, the CSLTadoussac, which was the inaugural project for the southern Ontario ship repair company now operating the former Lakehead Marine and Industrial site.

Shaun Padulo, Heddle's marketing and sales manager, said the vessel had been tied up for three or four years and Canada Steamship Lines (CSL) wanted to bring it back into service.

All indications coming from CSL is that they were pleased with their work and that the vessel is ready for the opening of the Seaway system, he said.

Padulo said Heddle is hoping to secure more work from CSL since their ships frequent the Lake Superior grain port. The Montreal shipper usually keeps a vessel or two in the harbour over the winter to get a first load out in the spring.

"We're hoping they're going to be one of our better customers up here."

Headquartered in Hamilton, Heddle maintains yards in Atlantic Canada and runs the Port Weiler Dry Docks on the Weiland Canal, near St. Catharines.

The shipyard, located on Thunder Bay's north end, plays a historic role in Canada's shipbuilding history both on the Great Lakes and for the Royal Canadian Navy.

Comprised of 42 acres of property on the waterfront, the once-dormant facility includes a 748-foot-long dry dock and two large fabrication and machine shops that were gutted during an auction sale in 2014.

Heddle acquired the shipyard in June 2016 and has joint ventured with Fabmar Metals, a local ship repair, fabrication and machining company. Heddle owns and administers the yard with Fabmar providing the workforce.

The steel fabrication work performed on the Tadoussac was essentially a pilot project for this business arrangement.

Padulo said Fabmar president Dale Ryynanen was stretched thin this past winter, working on other ships scattered around the harbour, forcing him to hire more people beyond his core workforce of 25.

"It was a positive first winter for us. We learned a ton and I think Dale and the Fabmar crew really need to be commended on bringing that yard back to life."

But Padulo said they'll need additional management to support the Thunder Bay operation if they intend to take on multiple projects.

"There were challenges. We have to find someone who can support Dale, with boots on the ground, when we've got a big project."

Padulo said their main goal is to keep the shipyard busy year-round. He plans on getting...

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