THE INTERIOR is nice and shiny, with that new car smell. The dials sit ready for the engines to fire them up and it feels as if it’s anxious to hit the open road. Or, in this case, the open sea.
ABCO Industries Ltd. of Lunenburg has just finished building the CCGS Viola M Davidson, a sophisticated fisheries research vessel for the Canadian Coast Guard.
Davidson was one of the first women to do graduate studies in marine science. She carried out research for her master’s degree and PhD at the St. Andrews Biological Station in New Brunswick, which this vessel will call home.
“We’re pretty proud of it,” ABCO Industries president John Meisner said of the ship that was officially launched on March 3 and is expected to be delivered to the Coast Guard by the beginning of May.
“It’s a complicated boat and there’s a lot of stuff in it but we did a good job on it.”
There’s only one other boat in the world like it and that’s the CCGS Kelso, which ABCO also built and delivered to the Coast Guard in Burlington, Ont., almost a year ago.
Both are 18.5-metre scientific research vessels.
The key difference is the Viola M Davidson has more fishing gear and is able to sail year-round because of its cooling and exhaust systems.
The boat has already completed dock-side trials of all its systems and is wrapping up sea trials under the watchful eye of project manager Roger Doucett.
The Viola M Davidson has met and exceeded all of the Coast Guard’s requirements and expectations, he said.
Meisner said every component of the vessel undergoes rigorous testing. He has even sailed alongside the boat in another ship in order to see how the Viola M Davidson sits in the water.
The vessel sailed to Halifax in just over four hours last week then back again the same day. Thursday, her builders conducted fishing trials off Lunenburg Harbour that included setting the fishing nets that scientists will use to collect samples that will be frozen on board and taken back for study.
Next week they’ll try out the scallop fishing gear.
“It’s like a mini fishing and scallop dragger,” Meisner explained. The vessel will trawl, drag and take samples of water and the ocean floor in the Bay of Fundy for analysis.
“It’s a very complex vessel, a very, very versatile vessel that can be used for a lot of applications,” Meisner said, including fishing, search and rescue and scientific research.
As ABCO’s manufacturing supervisor, Joe Dicks oversaw construction of the Kelso and Viola M Davidson. His team began with an aluminum hull, which was built upside down inside one of the bays.
ABCO had to develop a new door to get the hull outside, where it was turned right side up, taken back into the shop and the nearly completed wheelhouse lifted into place.
“What makes it work is we have a great team here. They really take pride in their work and make it easy for us,” Dicks said.
Meisner said getting the almost $3-million contract to build the ship generated a significant amount of work for ABCO, which had to extend its wharf to accommodate the vessel. It also generated work for area businesses such as L&B Electric Ltd. of Bridgewater and Hawboldt Industries of Chester.
Meisner hopes the contract will lead to others.
“This will give us very, very good exposure and our goal is to build more of these. . . . We did an excellent job. We have all the skills here to do it; the quality is the highest, the value is tremendous.”
ABCO has been building boats since the 1980s. During the last 15 years it has focused its efforts on constructing boats for the petroleum industry and regulatory sector, including the Halifax Regional Police and navy vessels.
While building boats is an integral part of ABCO’s business, it also carries on three other major lines — making food processing equipment, environmental equipment and industrial fabrication. It also has its own with its own engineering and design office.
The company’s skills and knowledge have evolved from the years it spent building processing and conveyor systems for fish processing plants, Meisner said.
At the moment, machinists and welders are building steam blanching machines for the food industry in the United States, Mexico and Australia.
They have also started work on a mobile de-watering truck designed by ABCO.
The truck cleans out septic tanks, separates liquids and solids, returns the liquids to the tanks then trucks the solids away.
And they’re building a conveyor system for Michelin’s tire plant in Bridgewater.
“We have a lot going on here,” Meisner said.
Source – http://thechronicleherald.ca/Business/1177830.html