Nfld. & Labrador

Back in the game: boat building returns to Harbour Grace

The last boat built at the Harbour Grace facility was back in 2005. New owners see a bright future.

A brand new vessel called the Nellie C. hit the water this week

A brand new fishing vessel, Nellie C. was built by Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises for the Careen family of Point Lance.

With a crack of a champagne bottle on the hull, a longtime Newfoundland fishing family launched a brand new boat on July 28. Roy Careen of Point Lance had the vessel built for the skipper, his son Christopher.

The launch of the Nellie C., named for both Roy's mother and his wife's mother, was a special moment for the Careens but an even prouder moment for the owners of Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises (HGOE).

The last vessel built in the Harbour Grace facility was back in 2005. General Manager of HGOE, Paul Lannon, said he and his group took over the business in 2013 and right away saw opportunities to get into boat building.

"There's a growing demand for new fishing vessels of various sizes because of changes to regulations in the industry and people fishing different species, so yards are very busy throughout the Maritimes and Atlantic Canada," said Lannon.

The Nellie C. is the first vessel built by Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises since it took over the Harbour Grace facility in 2013.

HGOE does a lot of repair and refit work for vessels, including everything from replacing hulls, rebuilding wheelhouses, fabricating fishing gear and engine overhaul. Lannon said boat building seemed an obvious next step.

"We have gotten calls form the Maritimes because there is a bit of a waiting list over there," explained Lannon.

The business currently employs 80 people with 20 to 30 working on boat construction.

"We really appreciate the fact that Roy Careen wanted a boat built in Newfoundland and it bodes well for the future of boat building," said Lannon.

Valuable set of skills

Neil Whalen took the lead on the Nellie C. build. Whalen built his first boat, a 35-foot (10.6-metre) longliner, back in 1992 with his uncle in Heart's Desire.

"I'm 45. Actually, I'm probably the youngest boat builder on the island," said Whalen.

Boat builder Neil Whalen presents Skipper Christopher Careen with the builder's plaque for the Nellie C.

He realizes now what a valuable skill set he has. "I kind of thought that the boat building industry was dying for awhile but it seems to be picking up now and we got a lot of new people with interest in building and fishermen in obtaining these vessels too so it's kind of exciting looking at it that way."

Whalen has put his hands to an even bigger project at HGOE. They're building an 80-foot (24.3-metre) fishing vessel for the Thorne family from Trinity Bay. Watch for that launch sometime in the first quarter of 2017.

To hear Jane Adey's interviews with Paul Lannon and Neil Whalen, click on the audio link below.

Company launches first boat, and sees a bright future for boat building 7:33

You can hear The Broadcast weekdays at 6 p.m. and the following day at 1 p.m.


Jane Adey

CBC News

Jane Adey hosts CBC Radio's The Broadcast, and has worked for many other CBC programs, including Here & Now, Land & Sea and On The Go.