Seaspan ULC

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Seaspan ULC
Industry Shipbuilding, Towing, and Short sea shipping
Predecessor Seaspan Marine Corporation
Headquarters North Vancouver and Victoria, Canada
Area served
Pacific Northwest
Key people
  • CEO: Frank Butzelaar
  • Presidents: Bart Reynolds - Seaspan Marine; Steve Roth - Seaspan Ferries; Brian Carter - Seaspan Shipyards; Tony Brewster - Marine Petrobulk Limited Partnership
  • General Counsel: Billy Garton - Seaspan ULC[1]
Number of employees
Parent Washington Companies

Seaspan ULC (formerly Seaspan Marine Corporation)[2] is a group of Canadian companies (referred to as “Seaspan”) primarily involved in coastal marine and deep-sea transportation, bunker fuelling, ship repair and shipbuilding, all of which serve both domestic and international markets along the Pacific Northwest.[3] Seaspan is part of the Washington Companies, owned by Dennis Washington and run by son Kyle Washington, Seaspan’s Executive Chairman.[4]

The company also offers commercial ferry, shipyard and bunkering services through subsidiaries including: Seaspan Ferries Corporation, Vancouver Shipyards Ltd., Victoria Shipyards Company Ltd., Vancouver Drydock Company Ltd., and Marine Petrobulk Limited Partnership.[3]

Business Sectors[edit]

Marine Transportation[edit]

Seaspan ULC has evolved into a prominent marine transportation company serving the West Coast of North America with a large tugboat and barge fleet. Seaspan's barges haul materials from the forest (logs, wood chips, hog fuel, lumber, pulp, paper and newsprint), minerals (construction aggregate and limestone), railcars, plus machinery, fuel and supplies to coastal communities. Seaspan also provides ship docking services to the Ports of Vancouver, Victoria, Esquimalt and other BC out ports.

Seaspan Ferries Corporation is a commercial roll on - roll off ferry service providing regularly scheduled transportation between British Columbia's Lower Mainland terminal in Delta and Vancouver Island's Nanaimo and Swartz Bay terminals.[5] Based in Delta, B.C., Seaspan Ferries Corporation transports semi-trailer trucks, containers, and rail cars on self-propelled ferries and integrated tug-barge units.[5]


Vancouver Shipyards is Seaspan’s newest, privately-funded shipyard and the most modern facility of its kind in North America. Custom-made to support Seaspan’s role as the NSS Non-Combat provider, Vancouver Shipyards stands as the sole shipbuilding and ship repair centre for the construction of Non-Combat vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy. The shipyard includes a 20,000 square foot, enclosed and environmentally controlled paint facility, a fabrication and assembly hall, and a multiple vessel drydock. [6]

Vancouver Drydock, located on the north shore of Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, provides a full range of repair services, including two Lloyd’s-registered floating drydocks with lifting capacities of 36,000 tonnes in a Panamax beam dock, and 30,000 tonnes in a self-contained deployable dock. The Vancouver Drydock also has a heavy machine shop with two 40 tonne overhead travelling cranes and lathes capable of handling shafts up to 18 metres (60 feet). [7]

Victoria Shipyards performs a wide range of repairs on vessels up to 100,000 DWT, including complete vessel conversions. It uses the Esquimalt Graving Dock, owned and operated by Public Services and Procurement Canada. Victoria Shipyards is currently delivering on the rehabilitation of the Victoria-class submarines through the Victoria In-Service Support Contract (VISSC) Program, and will support testing, trials and commissioning of the new NSS Non-Combat vessels. [8]


Commercial Ferry[edit]

Seaspan, through its affiliate company Seaspan Ferries Corporation, provides commercial ferry services, with regularly schedule transportation between BC’s Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island’s Nanaimo and Swartz Bay terminals. Based in Delta, BC, Seaspan Ferries transports breakbulk cargo including truck trailers, containers, and railcars on self-propelled ferries and integrated tug-barge units. As of 2017, Seaspan Ferries Corporation operates a fleet of seven ferries out of five terminals in British Columbia, and supplies more than 50% of all cargo to Vancouver Island. [9]


Seaspan offers barging services which transport various cargoes along the BC coast. Barging cargo includes logs, chips, pulp and paper, general bulk cargo, railcar, and petroleum cargo.

Ship Assist & Escort[edit]

Seaspan offers ship assist and escort services for vessels entering the Vancouver Harbour, Roberts Bank, Victoria and other BC ports. Seaspan abides by the following Marine Safety and Environmental regulations: ISO 14001 – Environment; OHSAS 18001 – Safety; COR – Safety; ISM Code.

Shipbuilding & Repair[edit]

Seaspan offers shipbuilding, conversion, refit, repair, life-cycle maintenance and refurbishment services on cruise ships, ferries, Coast Guard vessels, naval vessels, barges, yachts, fishing vessels, and Arctic Class and research vessels.

Cruise Ship Repair[edit]

Cruise ship repair services include: engineering; tail shaft repairs and fabrication; steel fabrication and repairs; diesel engine servicing; hull cleaning, painting and outfitting; glasswork; water and fire-tight doors; stainless steel galley equipment; weight testing of davits; cranes and gangways; woodwork and joinery; tiles and deck covering; and life boat davit repairs and wire exchanges.

Project Cargo[edit]

Seaspan offers project management and marine transportation solutions for: oil and gas; offshore and drilling; Arctic sea-lift and development; environmental; mining; salvage and rescue; and more.

Marine Bunkering[edit]

Marine Petrobulk Limited Partnership supplies all grades of fuel oil, marine diesel and marine gas oil to vessels entering the ports of Vancouver, New Westminster, Victoria, Prince Rupert, Kitimat and Nanaimo.

National Shipbuilding Strategy - NSS[edit]

The National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS) program includes the construction of 17 Non-Combat vessels in Seaspan's Vancouver Shipyards. Funded by the Government of Canada, Seaspan was given a budget of $8 billion for their portions of the NSS project. To accommodate the multi-billion dollar project, Seaspan invest $200 million in Shipyard Modernization. Vessels created for the NSS program are intended for use by the Canadian Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Navy. [10]

Construction of Non-Combat Vessels include:

  • Three offshore fisheries science vessels
  • One offshore oceanographic science vessel
  • Two naval joint-support ships
  • One polar icebreaker
  • Up to five medium-endurance multi-tasked vessels
  • Up to five offshore patrol vessels [11]

Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel (OFSV)[edit]

Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels (OFSV) are used by scientists to monitor fish stocks and marine ecosystems. The vessels are also meant to help scientists respond to emergencies in sensitive marine ecosystems.[12]

The build contract for all three OFSVs was awarded in June 2015, with a build contract value of $466 million.[13]

Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (OOSV)[edit]

This is a multi-purpose vessel with capacity for oceanographic, fishery, geological and hydrographic survey missions. Designed for scientific research on ocean currents and the seabed, the OOSV is made to assist with Canada's information gathering and understanding of the oceans and the impacts of climate change.[13]

Joint Support Ships (JSS)[edit]

A $230 million contract from federal officials for the design and production of Joint Support Ships (JSS) was made with Seaspan. JSS are meant to replenish food, water, fuelt, spare parts and ammunition supplies for the Royal Canadian Navy's vessels. [14]

Polar Icebreaker (PI)[edit]

Designed to be Canada’s largest and most powerful icebreakers to-date, the Polar Icebreaker will be built for the Canadian Coast Guard’s year-round activities in the Arctic. It is intended to operate farther north, in more difficult ice conditions, and for a longer period of time than its predecessor, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.[15]

NSS Timeline[edit]

  • October 2011 - The Government of Canada chooses Seaspan's Vancouver Shipyards to build future Non-Combat vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy as part of the NSS program. $8 billion was allocated for the construction of these vessels. [16]
  • April 2012 - Vancouver Shipyards is awarded an additional NSS vessel. The Canadian Coast Guard has elected to spend $5.2 billion for the construction of additional ships under the NSS program. [17]
  • October 2012 - Groundbreaking Ceremony marks official start of $200 million Shipyard Modernization Project as part of the NSS program. At its completion, Seaspan Shipyards will have four new fabrication buildings, a shipbuilding gantry crane an da load-out pier. [18]
  • March 2013 - Vancouver Shipyards begins design work for the Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel (OFSV). [19]
  • October 2013 - Canada announces plans for the construction of an additional 10 Non-Combat vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard. This announcement increased Seaspan's build package under the NSS program to 17 ships. [20]
  • February 2014 - Seaspan's new 300-tonne Gantry Crane arrives at Vancouver Shipyards. As the largest Gantry Crane in Canada, it stands 80 metres high and spans 76 metres wide, and marks a significant milestone in Vancouver Shipyard's Modernization Project. [21]
  • May 2014 - Seaspan officially announces the crane's new name, Hiyi Skwáyel - a Squamish name that translates to "Big Blue". [22]
  • November 2014 - The Vancouver Shipyard Modernization Project is officially completed, ahead of schedule and under-budget. [23]
  • June 2015 - Construction begins on the OFSV - the NSS program's first vessel.[24]
  • March 2016 - Two new contracts signed by Seaspan's Vancouver Shipyards and the Canadian Federal Government as part of the NSS program. Both contracts allow Seaspan to initiate early discussions and planning for the future construction of the Canadian Coast Guard's Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (OOSV) and the Royal Canadian Navy's Joint Support Ships (JSS). [25]
  • March 2016 - Construction of Seaspan's second NSS vessel, the Canadian Coast Guard's second OFSV is announced. [26]
  • February 2017 - A $230 million contract is announced with Seaspan's Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd. This contract will help with the design of the Navy's Joint Support Ship (JSS). [27]

Economic Benefits of the NSS[edit]

The multi-billion dollar Non-Combat program will sustain over 2,300 jobs directly and indirectly. During the project's peak, Vancouver Shipyards will sustain a workforce in excess of 800 hourly workers. A management and technical staff in excess of 100 people will support the workforce. The surge in job creations allows the NSS project to inject billions of dollars in British Columbia's economy. Over the first 10 years, over $3 billion will be added to Canada's GDP through Seaspan's role.[28]

The Non-Combat program also supports training and educational partnerships with Colleges and Universities through a sustained shipbuilding program. Unlike ship repair, where demand is inconsistent and temporary, New Build programs provide the opportunity to hire apprentices, while sustaining consistent and long-term workloads.

Canada's decision to build these ships domestically, rather than outsourcing to other countries, creates more jobs for Canadians, re-establishes an industry, and encourages Canadian technological innovation.[29]

NSS Financial Breakdown[edit]

Through an open competition, Irving Shipbuilding and Seaspan ULC were selected by the Government of Canada as the official shipbuilders for the NSS project.

Canada estimated an acquisition cost of $29.7 billion for Combat vessels and $8 billion for Non-Combat vessels. This created an estimated total cost of over $111.7 billion for the entire NSS project. Irving Shipbuilding was made responsible for the construction of the Combat vessels, including the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) and the Canadian Surface Combatants (CSC). Seaspan's Vancouver Shipyards was made responsible for the construction of all Non-Combat vessels. [30]


Ocean Tugs[edit]

  • Seaspan Royal
  • Seaspan Commodore
  • Seaspan King

Coastal Tugs[edit]

  • Seaspan Pacer
  • Seaspan Cavalier
  • Seaspan Corsair
  • Seaspan Cutlass
  • Seaspan Queen
  • Seaspan Commander
  • Seaspan Champion
  • Comox Crown
  • HaiSea Guardian
  • Seaspan Protector

Ship Assist & Escort Tugs[edit]

  • Seaspan Foam
  • Cates #4
  • Ace
  • Seaspan Kestrel
  • Seaspan Osprey
  • Seaspan Resolution
  • Seaspan Eagle
  • Seaspan Raven
  • Seaspan Falcon
  • Seaspan Hawk
  • Cates #1
  • Cates #3
  • Cates #5
  • Cates #8
  • Cates #10
  • Cates #20

River Tugs[edit]

  • Seaspan Tempest
  • Seaspan Venture
  • Seaspan Scout
  • JRW

Seaspan's Fleet Listing also incorporates Flat Deck Barges, Bulk Carriers, Chip Barges, Covered Barges, Oil Barges, Chemical Barges, Rail Barges, and Log Barges.


  • Seaspan Swift: Seaspan’s first of two new dual-fueled/hybrid (diesel, liquefied natural gas and battery) ferries. [31]
  • Seaspan Reliant: the second of Seaspan’s LNG gas fueled vessel. [32]
  • Seaspan Greg (ex Greg Yorke): Former F M Yorke & Sons Ltd rail car barge from 1964 to 1972. Renamed to Current name in 1974.
  • Carrier Princess: Former BCCSS (British Columbia Coast Steamship Service) Ferry from 1973 to 1998
  • Princess Superior: Former BCCSS (British Columbia Coast Steamship Service) Ferry from 1993 to 1998. Originally built in 1974 and named Incan Superior for Incan Marine Ltd.
  • Seaspan Challenger/ Coastal Spirit: Barge pusher tug
  • Arctic Hooper / Fraser Link: Barge pusher tug
  • The Pusher / VanIsle Link: Barge pusher tug

Former Vessels[edit]

  • Pacificat class ferries: 3 fast ferries sold to WMG in 2003 from BC Ferries. In 2009 the three ferries were sold to Abu Dhabi MAR, a luxury yacht builder. In the six years with WMG, a plan was organized to run the ferries from the Duke Point Ferry terminal to Vancouver, but this idea never happened.
  • Seaspan Doris (ex Doris Yorke): Former F M Yorke & Sons Ltd ferry from 1968 to 1972. Renamed to Current name in 1974. As of 2012 the ferry was mothballed in North Vancouver.


Note: There are many differences in dates between the Seaspan corporate history web page and other references; in such cases, the dates stated in the most reliable reference and on the Seaspan corporate history web page are both given.

Seaspan, as we know it today, is the product of a series of acquisitions and mergers in the coastal marine transportation and shipbuilding/ship repair business. Seaspan was created in 1970 by the merger of two prominent coastal towing firms: Vancouver Tug Boat Company (formed in 1898 by Harry A Jones) and Island Tug & Barge (formed in 1924 by Harold Elworthy).[33] In addition to being the largest tug and barge operation on the lower coast, Vancouver Tug also owned Vancouver Shipyards. In 1968[34] or 1969,[33] Vancouver Tug was acquired by the construction firm Dillingham Corporation, while Island Tug & Barge was acquired by Genstar Ltd. in 1969. The following year, Genstar joined with Dillingham to merge Island Tug and Vancouver Tug into a new corporation, Seaspan International Ltd. (In 1993 the name "Island Tug and Barge" was sold to the Shields family, of Shields Navigation, and the current Island Tug and Barge is not affiliated with Seaspan.)

Another prominent branch of the family tree was C H Cates & Sons Towing, generally known as Cates Towing, which was the primary shipdocking tug outfit in the Port of Vancouver for much of the 20th Century. Captain Charles Henry Cates arrived from Machias, Maine in 1885 and built the first cargo-handling wharf on the North Vancouver waterfront. He expanded into boatbuilding and repair and his tugs towed barges of building stone and assisted ships in Burrard Inlet.[35] In 1913 he formed C H Cates Towing, then joined with his three sons, all master mariners, to incorporate the company as CH Cates and Sons Limited in 1921.[36]

Vancouver Shipyard was founded in 1902 at the foot of Denman Street in Vancouver's Coal Harbour. Primarily a builder of small fishing and pleasure boats, the company built two minesweepers for the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War.[34] It was acquired by Vancouver Tug in 1954. In 1968[34] or 1969,[33] both Vancouver Tug and Vancouver Shipyards were acquired by Dillingham Corporation and moved to their present site at the foot of Pemberton Avenue in North Vancouver, where a larger shipyard was established. Since that time the company has constructed, outfitted, or converted 192 tugs, barges and ferries at the shipyard.[34]

Seaspan acquired many of the assets of the former Versatile Pacific Shipyards in two separate transactions. First, Seaspan and Allied Shipbuilders formed a partnership and, with assistance from both Federal and Provincial governments, created Vancouver Drydock Company to acquire the floating drydocks and some onshore facilities in North Vancouver from the defunct firm. Seaspan later acquired Allied's interest in the company.

Meanwhile, in 1994 Vancouver Shipyards (Esquimalt) Ltd. (now Victoria Shipyards) was created at the Esquimalt Graving Dock to fill the void left when the Yarrows shipyard in Esquimalt went bankrupt. Since then, Victoria Shipyards has become prominent in refitting and repair of cruise ships and vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy, including life-extension servicing of the five Halifax-class frigates based at CFB Esquimalt and the four Victoria-class submarines. It built the Orca-class patrol vessel fleet for the Royal Canadian Navy, constructed over two dozen search and rescue lifeboats for the Canadian Coast Guard, and assembled and launched the newest Seabus, the Burrard Pacific Breeze.[37]

Chronological History of Seaspan[edit]

( [33] except where noted)

  • 1970 - Seaspan International Ltd is created.
  • 1972 - Seaspan acquires F.M. Yorke & Sons Ltd.
  • 1973 - Genstar purchased Dillingham's interest and obtained full ownership of Seaspan.
  • 1977 - Seaspan acquires Gulf of Georgia Towing.
  • 1980 - Marine Petrobulk Ltd (50% owned by Seaspan) is created to provide fuelling services to vessels in the ports of Vancouver, New Westminster, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kitimat and Prince Rupert.[38]
  • 1986 - Imasco Ltd. acquires Genstar and gains controlling interest in Seaspan, then sells Seaspan to McLuan Capital Group later that year.
  • 1992 - Dennis Washington makes his first investment in British Columbia's marine industry by purchasing C. H. Cates & Sons Towing and its subsidiary Seaforth Towing. This is when Washington Marine Group was first formed.
  • 1995 - Washington acquires Norsk Towing from Fletcher Challenge.
  • 1996 - Washington purchases Seaspan.
  • 1997 - Washington purchases Kingcome Navigation from MacMillan Bloedel. Kingcome's roots go back to 1912 when it was formed to tow logs from logging camps to the paper mill in Powell River, British Columbia.
  • 1998 - Washington purchases the rail and truck ferry service of Coastal Marine Operations from the Canadian Pacific Railway; it becomes a subsidiary of Seaspan and is renamed Seaspan Coastal Intermodal.[39]
  • 1999 - Seaspan, Cates, Seaforth, Norsk and Kingcome are all amalgamated into Seaspan International. Dennis Washington sets up Washington Marine Group with separate divisions for towing, shipbuilding and ship repair, coastal intermodal, and bunkering services.
  • 2010 - Vancouver Shipyards is shortlisted for the Federal Government's National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS). The program, worth CAD$35 billion, is planned to build replacement ships for the Canadian Navy and Coast Guard over a 30 year period. Two Canadian shipyards will be selected, one to build combat vessels, the other non-combat vessels.[40]
  • 2011 - In a corporate restructuring, Washington Marine Group is renamed Seaspan Marine Corporation; the shipbuilding, coastal ferries and bunkering services become subsidiaries of the towing division.
  • 2011 - As the winning bidder of the $8 billion non-combat package of a $35 billion federal shipbuilding contract on 19 October 2011, Seaspan Marine will build 7 and possibly 8 vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard and Department of National Defence. These will include scientific research vessels, fisheries vessels, polar icebreaker CCGS John G. Diefenbaker, and two or three support vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy.[4][41][42]
  • 2012 – Seaspan`s Vancouver Shipyards commences the $170 million Shipyard Modernization Project in preparation for federal shipbuilding contracts under the NSS program. [43]
  • 2014 – Canada`s largest permanent gantry crane arrives at Seaspan`s Vancouver Shipyards. The crane weighs in at 300 tonnes, stands 80 metres high and spans 76 metres wide. [44]
  • 2015 – Vancouver Shipyards starts construction on the first NSPS ship, the Canadian Coast Guard`s Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel (OFSV). [45]
  • 2015 – Seaspan ULC starts construction on a new head office in North Vancouver. The 7,800 square metre (84,000 square foot) corporate headquarters is scheduled for completion in late 2017. [46]
  • 2016 – Seaspan celebrates historic milestone for the Royal Canadian Navy at the official ceremony for the completion of the Halifax-Class Modernization/Frigate Life Extension (HCM/FELEX) Refit Program on the West Coast, and transfer of the HMCS Regina From Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards, to the Department of National Defence Dockyard. [47]
  • 2017 – Seaspan ULC announces retirement of CEO, Jonathan Whitworth. Seaspan announces Frank Butzelaar will be Whitworth`s permanent replacement. [48]
  • 2017 – Seaspan Swift and Seaspan Reliant, the first eco-ferries of their kind (LNG-fuelled) in North America are formally christened by sponsors Christy Clark, Premier of British Columbia, and Anisa White, wife of Doug White III, Councillor and Chief Negotiator of Snuneymuxw First Nation. [49]


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  38. ^ [1] Archived 24 March 2012 on Wayback Machine.
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  40. ^ [2] Retrieved 2011-06-15 Archived 23 May 2011 on Wayback Machine.
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  49. ^ "Seaspan Ferries Celebrates Double Commissioning of New Liquefied Natural Gas Fuelled Vessels". Maritime Connector. 11 April 2017. Retrieved 22 May 2017. 

External links[edit]