Nfld. & Labrador

Breaking the ice: Mount Pearl company could help build coast guard's next ship

Design firm Genoa Design International has partnered with a Vancouver-based shipyard to build the Canadian Coast Guard's next polar icebreaker. 

Project comes as part of Canada's national shipbuilding strategy

Gina Pecore is the CEO of Mount Pearl's Genoa Design International. (Submitted by Genoa Design)

A Mount Pearl ship design firm is partnering with a Vancouver shipyard to potentially build the Canadian Coast Guard's next polar icebreaker. 

In a deal announced Wednesday morning, Genoa Design International of Mount Pearl will work with Seaspan Shipyards to deliver the new vessel by 2029, when the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent — the current heavy icebreaker — will be retired after six decades of service. 

The project is part of Canada's National Shipbuilding Strategy contract, which Seaspan was awarded in 2011.

"The Canadian coast guard has said it needs that ship to be in the water by 2029," said Gina Pecore, chief executive officer of Genoa Design International, in an interview with The Broadcast. "If we don't have something then, we don't have year-round capability in the north and as you know, that's critical to the country. So in order to get that ship in the water for 2029, work needs to begin in 2021."

Genoa has grown from 20 employees to more than 220 since joining Seaspan's supply chain in 2014. The two companies have worked together on several new vessels in Canadian waters, and Genoa has used that work to springboard into contracts in other countries.

"Growth won't just come from Canadian work," Pecore said. "It also comes from leveraging Canadian work into other programs outside of Canada."

If Seaspan Shipyards is confirmed as the builder of the icebreaker by the federal government, Genoa will provide 3D modelling and production design for the program, "creating sustained long-term ocean technology jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador's emerging innovation economy."

In a time when Newfoundland and Labrador is projecting a net debt of $16.7 billion, and with many calls — and promises — to diversify its economy in light of a struggling oil and gas sector, the new deal will help Genoa Design continue to contribute to the big picture and bolster opportunities elsewhere, said Seaspan.

"Beyond Genoa, the National Shipbuilding Strategy and the polar icebreaker program represent jobs and procurement opportunities well-suited to Newfoundland and Labrador's established cold-ocean and mega-projects supply chain," reads the company's media release.  

"This is especially important now, as the provincial economy has been hit hard by both the COVID–19 pandemic and the need to diversify the Newfoundland and Labrador economy."

CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent will retire in 2029 after six decades of service. (Submitted by Natural Resources Canada)

Genoa is projected to deliver about $30 million to the provincial gross domestic product in 2020. It will also sustain 220 full-time employees, and generate about $3 million in provincial and municipal government revenues, according to the release. 

Newfoundland and Labrador has more than 40 laboratories and research facilities focused on the ocean, the Arctic and harsh environment research and technology development. About 600 companies support industries that regularly operate in Arctic-like conditions.

The province is home to the Canadian Coast Guard Atlantic Regional Headquarters. It's also a primary base for service to the Arctic and home port for to the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.

Pecore said the old ship deserves plenty of respect for its longevity and service to the country.

"Sixty years on, things have really changed," she said. 

"I think there really needs to be to be a nod to the service life and all of those who maintained the Louis S. St-Laurent as long as it has been maintained. To extend the ship's life that long, it really is incredible. And I can't imagine that anybody thought almost 60 years ago that this ship would still be in service as it is today, because a lot of changes certainly have happened."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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