Nova Scotia

Halifax shipbuilding contracts lure military companies to DEFSEC Atlantic

The Ships Start Here slogan was made famous by Irving Shipbuilding, but it could easily be the motto of the annual Canadian Defence, Security and Aerospace Exhibition Atlantic happening this week in Halifax.

More than 400 exhibitors representing companies from around the world

Paul Evans, the CEO of CarteNav Solutions, demonstrates his company's software, which plots the region an airborne camera is viewing on a map, offering situational awareness. (CBC)

The Ships Start Here slogan was made famous by Irving Shipbuilding, but it could easily be the motto of the annual Canadian Defence, Security and Aerospace Exhibition Atlantic happening this week in Halifax. 

More than 400 exhibitors representing companies from around the world are participating in this year's expo at the Cunard Centre.

Military, security and aerospace firms have products and services on display. Most companies are hoping to become a link in the supply chain for a major government procurement project.

About one-quarter of the floor space at the expo is devoted to small meeting rooms, booked quietly in advance, in which negotiations take place between high-ranking business executives.

"You get a lot of companies in a small place at one time and good things can happen," said Steve Lucas, a representative from Team Spartan, a conglomerate of companies vying to build Canada's next search and rescue planes.

At the centre of the room is the Irving Shipbuilding booth. 

While the steel is already being cut at the Halifax Shipyard for the arctic offshore patrol ships, the agreements for the surface combatant ships — a much larger project — are still being negotiated.

'It's quite a huge project'

"The overall shipbuilding strategy is actually still quite early on," said Paul Evans, CEO of CarteNav Solutions. "There's a diversity of needs that need to be fulfilled."

CarteNav is a Halifax-based software company that "offers situational awareness" to camera systems, said Evans.

He pointed to a split-screen with a map on one side and a live zoomed-in aerial view on the other. Superimposed on the map was a green rectangle, showing the area the camera was viewing and offering context for what was nearby.

The shipbuilding contract is also attracting attention from overseas. DCNS Technologies is a French company with a Canadian subsidiary, in line to submit a bid to build the new surface combatant ships. 

"We are a candidate either for the combat system or the design of the platform," said Olivier Casenave-Pere, president of DCNS Technologies Canada.

"It's quite a huge project, $26.2 billion. So it's quite interesting for companies like us, of course."

In May, officials with the Department of National Defence said the two top-tier contractors for the surface combatant ships will be selected by early 2017.

The Defence Security and Aerospace Exhibition continues until Thursday afternoon.

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