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Suspense building:
Halifax shipyard awaits federal contract decision

Irving Shipbuilding hopes the contents of 16 bankers boxes delivered to Ottawa in July will transform into billions of dollars in federal contracts spread over the coming years.

The boxes contained plans, diagrams and detailed documentation related to the Halifax yard’s bid for one of two lucrative federal shipbuilding contracts.

“We are very confident in our bids, our facilities, our partnerships and, most importantly, our workforce and their ability to build the best ships to meet the needs of the federal government well into the future,” said Jim Irving, CEO of Irving Shipbuilding, in a statement formally confirming delivery of the bids.

Up for grabs are two contracts in the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. One shipyard will be selected to build combat vessels, a contract worth roughly $25 billion. The second piece of work will see construction of non-combat vessels, mostly for the coast guard, with a price tag of about $8 billion.

The feds have taken great pains to stress that politics will be left out of the process, and the two shipyards selected will be those that represent “best value” to Canada. But that hasn’t stopped feverish provincial lobbying efforts.

Three bidders have qualified for the work. Irving is one. Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd. is the second. The wild card is a last-minute entry that replaced individual bids by yards in Ontario and Quebec. The assets of financially-troubled Davie Yards of Lévis, Que., were sold to a consortium that included Ontario’s Upper Lakes Group, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering. The feds had agreed to extend the final deadline for bids two weeks, allowing time for the Hail Mary Davie acquisition.

Meanwhile, back on the East Coast, Irving’s bid has the support of not just Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, but also his counterparts in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. (The Kiewit Offshore Services shipyard in Newfoundland withdrew from contention just months before the deadline to file bids.)

Irving proponents say the Halifax shipyard’s bid is the option “that will drive superior benefits to all parts of Canada.” And within the province, the combat contract could create and sustain up to 11,500 jobs at peak employment periods across Nova Scotia.

For now, it’s wait and see — and hope. Ottawa’s decision on the contract winners is expected this fall.

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