After the busiest winter works period at the Port Weller Dry Docks in the past decade, it is important to reflect on how we got here and where we came from. When the docks are flooded, the gates opened, and the vessels sail away after a winter in the shipyard, it is easy to forget the endless hours of planning, preparation, and investment necessary to execute large-scale projects.
Winter 2020/2021 was the busiest at the Port Weller Dry Docks under Heddle Shipyards management. Still, the capabilities to take on such a large amount of work do not materialize overnight. When Heddle moved into the Port Weller Dry Docks in 2017, the facility had been shuttered for several years. Subsequently, when Heddle took on the monstrous task of revitalizing the ship repair and ship building business in St. Catharines, we also took on the task of revitalizing the shipyard itself.
Slowly but surely, Heddle Shipyards has continued to invest in the storied facility. The purchase of new equipment, renovations of offices and common spaces, and a facility-wide LED lighting retrofit have helped improve the Port Weller Dry Dock’s efficiency and capacity. That being said, a fresh coat of paint and new lights does not make a shipyard. That is why in the summer of 2020, Heddle Shipyards purchased the assets of Algoma Ship Repair, a subsidiary of Algoma Central Corporation. At the same time, Heddle also purchased several large pieces of equipment and machinery from the Stelco steel plant in Hamilton.
Heddle acquired a vast array of metalworking and machining equipment through the respective sales, including a 48″ swing lathe for propeller shaft machining. For the first time in over a decade, the propeller shaft of a Great Lakes bulk carrier was turning in the shop at the Port Weller Dry Docks. “It is an incredibly exciting moment for us,” said founder and COO Rick Heddle, “the equipment we acquired from Algoma Ship Repair and Stelco significantly increases our capacity to provide on-site services to our clients and take on larger machining work.”
In addition to Algoma Ship Repair’s purchase, Heddle Shipyards embarked on the journey to resurrect the quayside gantry crane that has lain dormant for many years. This iconic symbol of the Port Weller Dry Docks is fully operational. It can be seen running up and down the dock, hoisting equipment up to ships, and loading barges with goods manufactured at Heddle Shipyards.
Although there is still work to be done, Heddle Shipyards, with the support of companies like Algoma Central Corporation, are continuing to rebuild the capacity and capabilities of the Port Weller Dry Docks. In the years to come, we will continue to invest in our facilities and our people. We will return Ontario to a place of prominence in the Canadian Shipbuilding industry.