Need for More Skilled Workers is an Ongoing Challenge
Above: Workers at Provincial Boat and Marine Ltd. in Kensington, P.E.I. put the skin coat of fibreglass on a hull mould. Contributed photo
Boatyards throughout the Maritimes are being kept busy with new boat construction, as well as refit, repair and service work.
“The industry has never been busier, said Jay Campbell, spokesman for Provincial Boat and Marine Ltd. in Kensington, P.E.I. “In our over 45 years of building fibreglass boats, the demand has never been stronger. We anticipate this to continue for as long as global macroeconomic factors remain positive and catches remain good.”
The company currently has five boats under construction and a little bit of retrofit work to complete for the spring, said Campbell. “Most of the demand is local, the majority of our boats are going to the Maritime provinces fishing mainly lobster and tuna.”
According to the 2019 survey conducted by the Nova Scotia Boatbuilders Association (NSBA), industry in that province reported that 91 per cent of the $114 million in sales for 2018 were within Atlantic Canada, including new construction combined with repair, refit and service work.
Whether or not there is a backlog of orders depends on the boatyard, the focus of their business, their capacity, and where they are in the province, said Jan Fullerton, executive director of the NSBA.
“Some boatyards could take on a new order immediately, some reported in our 2019 survey that they couldn’t take on a project for a new customer until 2030,” said Fullerton.
“Companies doing primarily repair and service work and those building boats other than fishing vessels generally have lower wait times than those building fishing vessels. For fishing vessels, the wait time with most boatyards is at least two to three years for new construction.”
Fullerton said based on conversations the NSBA has with boatbuilders throughout the year and what is known of the current strength of the lobster fishing industry around Nova Scotia and the Maritime provinces, lobster fishing vessels remain the major demand for new boat construction.
Upgrades and refits to lobster fishing boats, such as the installation of live wells is also pretty popular.
“Lengthening and widening existing vessels is also fairly common and some boatyards do this type of work on a regular basis,” said Fullerton.
“In our 2019 survey about industry activity in 2018, respondents reported that about 44 per cent of sales were for repair, refit and service work.”
The total number of skilled people employed full-time, year-round by boatbuilders, repairers, servicers and marine suppliers in Nova Scotia was 1,450 in 2018, including 970 boatbuilding jobs and 480 employed by marine suppliers.
The need for more skilled workers in the industry is an ongoing challenge, said Fullerton, adding the NSBA have a number of initiatives to address that, thanks to support from the N.S. Department of Labour and Advanced Education and the N.S. Apprenticeship Agency.
Nova Scotia is the only province or territory in Canada with a boatbuilders association. Since the NSBA was established over 20 years ago, the association has supported industry through marketing activities, labour market development projects, government relations and advocacy, said Fullerton.
“While we have direct member benefits such as raising the profile of our members and helping them to connect with customers, each other, suppliers and other associated industries, uniting our industry is arguably the most valuable role of NSBA. Whether it is to have a strong voice on issues facing our industry or helping to identify shared needs and challenges or providing services to help address those identified needs, having a mechanism to communicate internally and externally as an industry offers tremendous benefits for our members.”
Fullerton said the NSBA is doing some strategic planning with industry this winter and are looking forward to a renewed mandate as they move forward.