For decades, the Port Weller Dry Docks in St. Catharines Ontario was a fixture of the Canadian shipbuilding industry and one of the busiest shipyards in the country. In 1956, the Upper Lakes Shipping Company purchased the shipyard from the Government of Canada beginning a nearly forty-year span of shipbuilding excellence. Ships such as the CCGS Des Groseilliers, the MV Holiday Island ferry and the self-unloader Canadian Progress – the largest cargo vessel on the Great Lakes at the time – were all built at the Port Weller Dry Docks.
By the 1990’s, the Port Weller Dry Docks was the lone Canadian shipbuilder on the Great Lakes and eventually went insolvent in the early 2000’s. Over the next seventeen years, multiple owners attempted to resurrect the once great shipyard but with little success. In 2013, the Port Weller Dry Docks finally shut its doors for good and the storied tradition of Ontario’s largest shipbuilding facility came to a final and unceremonious close.
That is until 2017 when Heddle Shipyards took over operation of the Port Weller Dry Docks and the awesome task of revitalizing one of Canada’s largest ship repair and construction facilities. Over the past three years, Heddle has steadily grown our book of business at the Dry Docks and in the winter of 2021, we have achieved another significant milestone.
This winter, the Port Weller Dry Docks is servicing three Canada Steamship Line’s vessels. This is the first time in well over a decade that the St. Catharines shipyard will have three full sized lakers during a winter work campaign. The CSL Niagara, the CSL Assiniboine and the CSL Laurentien, are all undergoing dry-docking and alongside works and will depart the shipyard upon the Seaway’s reopening in the spring.
“This is a significant milestone for us,” said Director of Business Development Ted Kirkpatrick, “We have been slowly building towards this moment by increasing the volume of work at the shipyard every year since 2017 and now we can say we have achieved something not seen in over a decade. We are extremely grateful that Canada Steamship Lines gave us this opportunity to service their vessels and continue to grow our operational capabilities at the Port Weller Dry Docks.”
While the Port Weller Dry Docks are still well below the 2000 employees that frequented the shipyard during the glory days of Canadian shipbuilding, Heddle has been able to create hundreds of jobs, invest in new equipment and revitalize the existing infrastructure. Through our relationships with companies like Canada Steamship Lines, we will continue to revitalize the ship repair and construction industry in Ontario and return to a time when three ships in one winter at the Port Weller Dry Docks, is not the exception to the rule, but the norm.