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B.C. firms land military container contract

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by Richard Gilbert

A B.C. company has developed a local supply network that meets Canadian military requirements of a multi-million dollar contract for the construction of reinforced intermodal shipping containers.
B.C. firms land military container contract

staff writer

A B.C. company has developed a local supply network that meets Canadian military requirements of a multi-million dollar contract for the construction of reinforced intermodal shipping containers.

These containers can be mobilized quickly for a range of uses in extreme environments.

“The ability to be able to move these shipping containers around by truck, sea, air and rail gives these units a lot of flexibility,” said Ray Castelli, chief executive officer of Burnaby-based Weatherhaven, which is a manufacturer of portable shelters, camps and systems for remote sites.

“They can be delivered by truck, detached to become intermodal and put anywhere in the world. This construction method is cheaper and can be mobilized more quickly than a conventional temporary structure.”

Last week, Westerhaven completed the construction on the first of 400 customized intermodal containers at a facility in Port Coquitlam under a $60 million federal government defence contract.

DEW Engineering teamed with Weatherhaven as their primary partner, along with other Canadian companies in August 2009 to win the $130 million procurement program.

The four year contract involves the design and manufacture of 895 baseline shelters, which includes engineering data and integrated logistics support with an option for up to 110 more shelters.

The project will create or maintain 230 jobs throughout all regions of Canada.

“The containers must be built from scratch with a reinforced roof and side girders, so they don’t twist and maintain structural integrity,” said Castelli.

“They are specially built so corner beams and the bottom is reinforced. We have also installed a mechanical room in the container, which has an on-board generator, electrical system, light system, heating and ventilation.”

When deployed on military vehicles, the units can operate in more than thirty configurations including command centres, medical clinics, kitchens and showers. The set up process for the units takes 20 minutes.

“Some of the units are standard shipping containers and some are expandable, which is a little higher end,” said Castelli.

“With an expandable container, the side walls actually detach and swivel down to the ground, which triples the floor space. We have pop out fabric walls on both sides.”

The specialized units are designed with thermal protection, which allows troops to survive in harsh conditions from minus 40 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius.

The intermodal units will be used to support both domestic needs, as well as peacekeeping and humanitarian missions around the world.

Castelli said Westerhaven was awarded the contract three years ago and have been working since then to design the product and get it approved by the military.

“It was necessary to put together a supply network. We are required to do a significant amount of this work in B.C., so we had to find suppliers with knowledge and the expertise to meet specifications,” he said.

“Automotive vehicle requirements are very strict, so we had to spend a couple of years recruiting and training suppliers.”

As a result of putting together a B.C. supply chain, Westerhaven has proven that B.C. companies can meet the standards of a demanding military client.

The eight companies involved in the project from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia are:

Container shell – Tri-Metal from Surrey

Sheet Metal components – Wesgar from Port Coquitlam

Painting and Assembly – Wesgar Completions from Port Coquitlam

Wood paneling – Seagull from Vancouver

Onboard generator – Frontier from Delta

Battery chargers – Analytics from Delta

Electrical System – DNA Data Networking from Burnaby

Electrical installation – Wespac from Coquitlam

These companies will supply up to 90 per cent of the total value of the modular units.

In total, Westerhaven has 47 suppliers in B.C.

The production facility is managed by Wesgar Completions, which is the company sub-contracted by Weatherhaven to manage the final assembly of the units.

Castelli said that Westerhaven will be building one unit a day for the next three years.

The project will create about 100 full-time equivalent jobs in B.C. over the three-year term of the project.

“This positions us to go after contracts that are equally demanding,” said Castelli. “Our suppliers have developed the capability, confidence and the track record to go after military contracts. This will be particularly important for meeting the requirements of the B.C. shipbuilding contract.”

Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards was awarded an $8 billion federal contract in October last year for the construction of seven non-combat ships, under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

The non-combat package awarded to Seaspan includes the Navy’s joint support ships, the Canadian Coast Guard’s off-shore science vessels and the new polar icebreaker.

Castelli said Westerhaven went through three stages to gain approval from the military, under the contract.

The first stage was winning the contract through a competitive bid process.

In the second phase, the product was designed to specification by engineers.

As part of this stage, Westerhaven had to build a prototype and undertake user trials in the field. Based on the feedback received from the trials, the company developed a final design, which was signed off by the client. The last stage was building the final product.

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