TransLink picks offshore firm to build next SeaBus

Union decries decision against North Vancouver shipbuilding yard

The MV Burrard Otter will be retired after a new SeaBus is built and launched in 2014.

The MV Burrard Otter will be retired after a new SeaBus is built and launched in 2014.

A new SeaBus will be built offshore rather than in North Vancouver after TransLink chose the lowest of two final bidders for the vessel replacement contract.

Damen Shipyards Group of the Netherlands beat out North Vancouver’s Allied Shipbuilders for the $25-million project.

TransLink spokesman Derek Zabel said up to $2 million will be saved by the decision to pick the low bid.

“We need to be wise stewards of scarce taxpayer dollars, so cost was one of the main factors,” he said.

Zabel said some components of the new boat would have been built in the U.S. if the North Vancouver shipyard had been chosen. A third bidder eliminated earlier in the procurement was from the U.S.

The decision is being criticized by the Shipyard General Workers Federation, which said TransLink failed to take into account significant spin-off benefits to the B.C. economy had Allied’s Dollarton yard been picked instead.

“They’re going to pump all that money into another economy,” union president George MacPherson said. “It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.”

He said Damen Group owns dozens of shipyards around the world and will likely build the new vessel in Asia, not Europe.

“It could be China, it could be Singapore, it could be Vietnam or Indonesia,” MacPherson said. “We’re quite certain it won’t be built in the Netherlands.”

He said building local would have meant 60 full-time jobs for a little over a year plus well over 100 more with various local suppliers and sub-contractors.

The previous replacement SeaBus launched in 2010, the Burrard Pacific Breeze, was built by a Victoria shipyard that did not submit a bid this time.

Zabel said the new SeaBus – to be in service in 2014 – will burn less fuel and produce much less pollution and greenhouse gas emissions than the 36-year-old MV Burrard Beaver, which it replaces.

The Beaver will act as a spare vessel and could come back into service if TransLink gains more funding to offer more frequent SeaBus sailings.

The older MV Burrard Otter will be retired.

TransLink says the older vessels are still safe but no longer meet all Transport Canada standards.