Irving Shipbuilding welding activityClick image to enlargeThe East Coast's manufacturers will soon be gearing up for metal fabrication and welding as work on the long-awaited Navy patrol ships is set to begin in September at Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax.

 The Federal government announced the construction of the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) seven years ago and since then there have been delays on the project and projects costs have climbed to $400 million, according to a March 4, 2015 Globe and Mail article.Irving Shipbuilding in HalifaxClick image to enlarge

However, the ship designs are now finalized and the first steel for the ship is set to be cut in September at Irnving Shipbuilding in Halifax.

"The count-down is on for steel cutting on September 1st,” said Jim Irving, on January 23, 2015.

The $2.3 billion deal the government signed with Irving in January 2015 calls for the construciton of five ships. The 103-m long vessels will be able to cut thorugh one-metre, first-year ice.

According to The Globe and Mail article, the AOPS will be the first ships built under the $36.6-billion National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy that Ottawa outlined in 2011. "Following the vessels will be 15 surface combatants, three naval support ships, four other coast guard vessels for fishery and oceanography sciences, as well as a coast guard heavy icebreaker to be called the Diefenbaker. The shipbuilding program will span 20 to 30 years and create 15,000 direct and indirect jobs."

The Irving shipyard is completing a $300-million upgrade project to put in place new facilities, processes and workforce, with September set as the target to start work on the first ship.

The production of the ships will involve construction of 62 separate building blocks for each ship that will be assembled into three main blocks, which will then be welded together to form a finished ship.

In a statement on January 23, 2015, Irving said it estimates that more than 1,000 AOPS program jobs will be sustained at the shipyard in Halifax at the peak of production, bringing total employment at Irving Shipbuilding to 1,600. 

Irving says it will begin recalling employees from its seniority lists later this year as AOPS construction progresses. It is expected that the largest trade requirements will be in the welding and metal fabrication/ironwork areas, with electrical and pipefitting needs increasing as the first ship reaches the latter stages of production. The largest future requirements for AOPS staff positions will be in planning and production management and supervision areas.

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