Nfld. & Labrador

Idled Marystown shipyard sold to Paul Antle

The sale needs sanctioning from the provincial government, but the mayor hopes it will be finished by the end of March.

Sale needs sanctioning from provincial government; mayor hopes deal done by end of March

The Marystown shipyard has been a fixture in the Burin Peninsula town for more than 50 years. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

The idled shipyard in Marystown has been sold, pending approval from the Newfoundland and Labrador government, to Paul Antle's Marbase Marystown.

"After many twists and turns, it seems now that Marbase itself will buy the shipyard directly from Kiewit," said Marystown Mayor Sam Synard.

The town had been the initial buyer of the shipyard from Kiewit, and Synard said there was a $1-million purchase agreement in place and signed by everyone involved, but the process was taking too long.

You can't run a business if you're waiting months and months to get approval on basic stuff. I mean everything from buying a paper clip.- Sam Synard

"Right now, we are sort of stepping aside for the betterment of the community. It's just taking too long to try and work the process through the government, involving a municipality owning a shipyard, so we stepped aside," Synard told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"Marbase has moved up the middle and they will hopefully own a shipyard in Marystown come the end of this month."

The sale will be for $1 million, and the terms have a non-compete clause so Marbase cannot compete directly with Kiewit, Synard said, in offshore construction, primarily.

Antle, meanwhile, said it's indeed been a complicated deal to reach, with multiple parties involved, but going with a private-private transaction should make things easier.

Paul Antle, far right, and Marystown Mayor Sam Synard, far left, at a chamber of commerce meeting where Antle outlined his hopes for the shipyard purchase. (Sam Synard/Facebook)

"We're gonna move as quick as we can. First we've got to get closed, but over the next number of years we could see the ranks of employment grow out there from 50 to a couple of hundred quite quickly," said Antle, who in the fall took his third try at running for provincial politics in the Windsor Lake byelection for the Liberals. He lost that race to Ches Crosbie.

"We're shooting to have it closed and done and dusted by March 31."

'400 jobs that will be here forever'

Antle made a presentation to the chamber of commerce on Wednesday night outlining his plans for Marbase Marystown, which include about 200 full-time jobs in the first year, doubling to 400 full-time jobs within three or four years, Synard said.

"These jobs are not your cyclical jobs that you see in offshore oil work or even ship construction or ship repair work," he said. "Aquaculture is a 24-hours-a-day, 24/7 process. It never stops. And so when I'm referencing the possibility of 400 jobs in a number of years, that's 400 jobs that will be here forever."

Synard said it took too long for Marystown to reach a deal to buy the shipyard, so the town stepped aside. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Synard said the shipyard is in "surprisingly good condition," and through the initial attempt by the town to buy the facility, he'd taken plenty of industry people, mainly from Norway, into the building in the last 10 months.

"They couldn't believe this facility was sitting idle on the ocean because it has so much potential for aquaculture, and for other industries as well," he said.

Synard said the town has been trying to purchase the shipyard from Kiewit, but the rules around what municipalities can do are so strict it became too difficult, and it would have taken a much longer time to make a deal happen.

"You can't run a business if you're waiting months and months to get approval on basic stuff. I mean everything from buying a paper clip almost, that's how mundane and nonsensical it is," Synard said. 

"So we figured, we've got to streamline this. This process will eventually end, but we're losing opportunities, so we sort of all at the same time, the light bulb just went on, we said OK let's go a different route."

Synard said the town reached out to Kiewit on Monday to discuss Marbase coming on as the purchaser, and the company readily agreed.

Last year, leaked plans outlined a Newfoundland-Norwegian partnership that was exploring turning the former Kiewit shipyard into an "innovative fully integrated aquaculture service hub."

The Marbase agreement is between Pluto Investments of St. John's, the CEO of which is Antle, and Amar Group AS of Norway to establish the hub, which it says will be the first of its kind in Canada.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Fred Hutton

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