Leaked plan proposes turning former Marystown shipyard into aquaculture hub
Partnership between Norwegian and Newfoundland companies exploring new use for dormant facility
A Newfoundland-Norwegian partnership is exploring turning the idled Marystown shipyard into an "innovative fully integrated aquaculture service hub," according to plans leaked to the media.
The information details a partnership — known as Marbase Marystown Inc. — between Pluto Investments of St. John's and Amar Group AS of Norway to establish the hub, which it says will be the first of its kind in Canada.
Details were revealed in an information sheet that was emailed to some media outlets, but which was never intended to be released publicly, said Pluto Investments CEO Paul Antle.
"There was an information sheet that was circulated to a number of our customers of the Norwegian group, just as a heads-up, looking for support for the concept, and obviously that made its way into your hands," said Antle, speaking to CBC News on Thursday.
"We didn't announce anything and … we're not at the stage where there is anything to announce."
Antle stressed that no agreements have been signed.
"There's no deals done, there's a long ways to go. We don't want to create any false expectations," he said.
"There's a lot of work to do, but it's something that is very promising."
Antle said Marbase has not bought the shipyard.
"I think it's public knowledge that the Town of Marystown has a tentative agreement with Kiewit for the purchase of the yard from Kiewit," he said.
Talks are continuing
Marystown Deputy Mayor Gary Myles would not confirm that there is an agreement in place, but said talks are continuing among several parties — including Antle, the Newfoundland and Labrador government, Kiewit and others.
We're not at the stage where there's anything to announce.- Paul Antle
"Nothing is absolutely decided yet, but I am optimistic that talks will end positively," said Myles.
Placentia West-Bellevue MHA Mark Browne was more forthcoming, though, telling CBC that two weeks ago there was a tentative deal struck at a meeting that included himself, Premier Dwight Ball, Marystown Mayor Sam Synyard, Burin-Grand Bank MHA Carol Anne Haley and Kiewit Offshore Services president Fuat Sezer.
"The town offered to purchase the facility from Kiewit Offshore Services and to operate the shipyard, to own the shipyard and lease it, then, to an operator, and that will be Paul Antle and his group," said Browne.
"He's partnered now with a Norwegian consortium to develop an aquaculture supply service base in Marystown, so it's very exciting news for the Burin Peninsula."
Browne said the facility has been idle too long, and touted the "prospect of hundreds of jobs back in Marystown, which are stable, continuous for our very skilled workforce."
Tentative sale fell through earlier this year
But Antle said it's too soon to say when, or if, the project will go ahead.
"It's very preliminary," he said.
"We're looking at various aspects of that concept and working through a very long process in order to bring it to realization, and if indeed it does materialize, and when that happens, if it does happen, I'll be happy to talk at length about it."
Earlier this year, Antle's Newdock company was in talks to buy the shipyard from Kiewit Offshore Services, but those fell through after Newdock determined there was more work that needed to be done than originally thought, and Kiewit rejected Antle's counteroffer.
Antle said the aquaculture service hub concept was not part of any plan at that time.
"I can't pin this on any particular point in time," he said. "It's just evolved through my contacts throughout the industry. It's just one of those things, an opportunity that has presented itself."
The leaked information says the hub will "bring together key suppliers to enhance the industry's supply chain effiency, enable access to key resources, improve advanced technology transfer and move Canada's aquaculture production towards a more modern, sustainable and efficient future."
The information also highlights the technical specifications of the site, including an office building, fabrication space, storage and laydown area, machine shops and marine slipway.
Since the Newdock-Kiewit detail fell through, the provincial government has announced an environmental review of the site to provide more information for prospective buyers.