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Wheatley ship builder lands $25M contract to refurbish coast guard lifeboats

A Wheatley boat builder has landed another massive contract with the Canadian Coast Guard, a $25-million deal to refurbish lifeboats that guarantees six years of work at the company.

Author of the article:

Ellwood Shreve

Publishing date:

Nov 12, 2021  •  6 days ago  •  3 minute read  •   Join the conversation  

Hike Metal Products Ltd. president Steve Ingram stands beside the first of 11 Cape Class series motor lifeboats the company has landed a $25 million contract to refurbish for the Canadian Coast Guard. Behind him, is the sixth brand new Bay Class search and rescue vessel the Wheatley ship builder has constructed for the coast guard. (ELLWOOD SHREVE/Chatham Daily News) Hike Metal Products Ltd. president Steve Ingram stands beside the first of 11 Cape Class series motor lifeboats the company has landed a $25 million contract to refurbish for the Canadian Coast Guard. Behind him, is the sixth brand new Bay Class search and rescue vessel the Wheatley ship builder has constructed for the coast guard. (ELLWOOD SHREVE/Chatham Daily News)

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A Wheatley boat builder has landed another massive contract with the Canadian Coast Guard, a $25-million deal to refurbish lifeboats that guarantees six years of work at the company.

Steve Ingram, Hike Metal’s president, said he doubted the Bay Class contact influenced the coast guard’s decision to award his company the lifeboat work since it was a competitive bidding process.

Still, the company’s outstanding record for quality and craftsmanship – underscored by the ongoing success of that earlier contract – didn’t hurt their chances, Ingram said.

“I think the coast guard understands we are one of the premier aluminum boat builders, and it’s because of that we know what we’re doing and we’re a quality group,” he said.

There are only a handful of ship builders in Ontario that can do this type of work, Ingram noted.

The contract is a vessel life extension program involving 26 Cape Class series motor lifeboats. Hike Metal has the contract to refurnish the 11 Cape Class lifeboats docked in Ontario.

Ingram said the coast guard wants two of the 47-foot boats repaired each year for the next five-and-a-half years.

“Basically, it’s an upgrade of everything from electronics to a new paint job to (installing) all the safety equipment, just bringing everything up to our level of standards for today.”

He said these life extension programs are relatively simple if properly organized.

“It’s predetermined: You will fix this, you will fix it this way, so we know there are ‘x’ amount elements to be repaired on the boat,” Ingram said.

An on-site inspector will also make sure that Hike Metal has complied with the coast guard’s specifics on how the work is to be done.

Given that Hike Metal has been building the highly sophisticated Bay Class search-and-rescue vessels from scratch, the lifeboat overhauls should be fairly simple for the company, Ingram said.

Hike Metal was initially awarded a $43-million contract in July 2015 to build six of the search-and-rescue vessels. In late 2018, the custom ship builder was awarded another $36-million contract to deliver four more of the Bay Class boats to the coast guard.

The sixth Bay Class vessel built by Hike Metal is now dockside while the seventh – sitting at about 65 per cent complete – is in the shop. The eighth vessel has the keel laid and is well into the structural assembly while materials are on order for the ninth vessel, Ingram said.

He said the Bay Class project is expected to wrap up completely in 2024.

In addition to these two coast guard contracts, Hike Metal also has plenty of other more local work to keep employees busy, Ingram said.

Along with maintaining the Wheatley-area commercial fishing fleet, the company just delivered two vessels to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and recently completed a pilot boat for the Welland Canal.

Hike Metal, Ingram added,  also has another government project for hydrographic vessels – ships used to conduct seismic surveys of the seabed and its underlying geology – intended for Canada’s East Coast.

Ingram said his company needed to add a “couple of more bodies” after landing the latest coast guard contract.

Hike Metal, though, is always looking for people who either have some marine industry or welding manufacturing experience, as well as those who are willing to be trained in the industry, Ingram added.

“It’s a very interesting industry if you’re into any type of manufacturing process or assembly process,” he said.

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