Irving family closing idled Saint John shipyard

An Irving-family-owned shipyard that once employed up to 4,000 workers in Saint John, N.B., is being permanently closed after sitting idle since April 2000.

"Today's announcement does bring an end to three difficult years of uncertainty for both the workers and the company," the company said Friday.

"It also marks a very regrettable end to an important part of life for our family for over 40 years."

Saint John Shipbuilding had operating in the city for nearly 80 years.

The shipyard won a $6.2 billion contract to construct a dozen patrol frigates for the Canadian navy over the late 1980s and 1990s, but the yard has had difficulty securing work since then.

Ottawa is putting up $55 million to help offset the loss of the shipyard to the local economy. The company is expected to put up a similar amount and establish a $10 million fund to help workers affected by the closure.

Federal Labour Minister Claudette Bradshaw said Ottawa will the company create a new industrial use for the site of the sprawling shipyard.

"After laudable efforts to try to diversify the Saint John shipyard in a highly competitive international environment, the owners made the difficult decision to permanently close the yard," Bradshaw said.

The closure of the Saint John shipyard leaves the yard in Levis, Que., as the only one in Canada capable of handling large military contracts.