It was a summer of progress and excitement for the Heddle Shipyards and Fabmar Metals team in Thunder Bay. Fabmar officially joined Heddle in August and now the Thunder Bay shipyard has  secured a major project for the Government of Ontario – the dry docking of the MS Chi-Cheemaun.  Last week, Heddle Shipyards was awarded the dry docking and refit contract for the passenger vessel, the MS Chi-Cheemaun.  Operated by the Owen Sound Transportation Company, the Chi-Cheemaun has served the Tobermory to Manitoulin Island route since it entered service in 1974.

                The MS Chi-cheemaun was built in the Collingwood Shipyard in Collingwood, Ontario and is an iconic symbol of Georgian Bay and Manitoulin Island.  The name Chi-Cheemaun means “Big Canoe” in Ojibwe, and the vessel’s vibrant paint job is a representation of the Indigenous communities of Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay region.  With a capacity of 648 passengers and 140 vehicles, the Chi-Cheemaun is a vital link between the Bruce Peninsula and the crystal-clear waters of Manitoulin Island.

                Now that the sailing season is over, the Chi-Cheemaun will transit to the Thunder Bay Shipyard to undergo scheduled maintenance and refit activities. “We are excited to have the Chi-Cheemaun at the Shipyard,” said Alicia Nash, Director of Project Management, “It is a great opportunity to showcase our increased capacity since the acquisition of Fabmar Metals earlier this summer.” In the coming months, Heddle will execute a variety of complex mechanical work scopes which will ensure the safety and reliability of the Chi-Cheemaun for years to come.

                As Ontario and the world slowly emerge from the COVID 19 Pandemic, Ontario ferries will play an increasing role in facilitating the movement of tourists and commuters throughout our beautiful province.  As a proud partner of the Ontario Government, Heddle Shipyards takes great pride in the opportunity to provide vessel life cycle services to our provincial ferry operators. “We are an Ontario-based company, and nothing gives us more pleasure than being able to support the Ontario ferry system,” Heddle President Shaun Padulo said. “Ontario’s marine economy is an economic driver for many communities in this province, keeping ship repair and shipbuilding work in Ontario, strengthens our company, our suppliers and our province’s position.”

                In the coming years, Ontario shipyards will be presented with a number of transformative opportunities both in the shipbuilding and ship repair sectors.  Projects like the MS Chi-Cheemaun refit will allow Heddle Shipyards to build and maintain the workforce of the future, ensuring Ontario shipyards are the front runners for the billions of dollars in Federal Shipbuilding contracts to be awarded in the coming years.  The MS Chi-Cheemaun refit project is just one more example of how Heddle Shipyards and the Ontario Government will BRING SHIPBUILDING BACK TO ONTARIO.