Canada's Boom in Shipbuilding

The Romantic Revival of a One-Time Prosperous Industry

W. A. Craick January 1 1917

Canada's Boom in Shipbuilding

The Romantic Revival of a One-Time Prosperous Industry

W. A. Craick January 1 1917

Canada's Boom in Shipbuilding

The Romantic Revival of a One-Time Prosperous Industry

W. A. Craick

IT IS never wise to make absolute statements. Just before the war a writer in a monumental work on the history of Canada set down in cold type the following emphatic assertion :

“Shipbuilding in Canada is an industry that in one sense has passed away, but in another is just beginning. Wooden shipbuilding is gone beyond recall; the building of steel vessels is in its infancy. The ship's carpenter has departed forever from the once busy shipyards of Quebec and Maritime Provinces, but the Atlantic and the Pacific ports and the ports on the Great Lakes, where iron and coal can be cheaply assembled, are beginning to resound w'ith the clang of the ship foundry and the incessant din of the pneumatic riveters. The story of Canadian shipbuilding is thus both a retrospect and a prospect.”

Strange that these words, penned with such assurance three years ago, believed at the time to be absolutely correct not alone by the author, but by every one who gave the subject a moment’s thought, should so soon be controverted in so far at least as they applied to the builqjng of wooden ships. For this supposedly defunct industry has been revived. On both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts wooden ships are again being built. And in numbers and in tonnage the vessels of 1916 will not fall far short of those of the banner years of the nineteenth century.

No, in spite of the judgment of the historian of three years ago, wooden shipbuilding has not receded on the swift-moving current of time beyond the poirt where its recall has proved an impossibility, nor have the ship’s carpenters departed forever from those famous old shipyards that once on a time dotted the coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotiá. Temporary the revival may prove—an expedient to serve the pressing needs of wartime—but here it is, a

lusty, stirring enterprise, one of the most interesting developments of the present day in Canada.

CHIPBUILDING is an industry as old ^ almost as the history of the country itself. Back in the romantic days of the French regime, many a stout vessel, fashioned from wood, hewn from the virgin forest? of Quebec, was launched into the current of the lordly St. Lawrence. The Royal shipyards at the mouth of .the St. Charles became scenes of vast activity. Not alone w'ere merchantmen of goodly tonnage constructed, but men of war, mounting some of them as many as seventy-two guns, were designed and built for the service of His French Majesty.

Quebec continued to be a famous shipbuilding centre after the conquest, for it possessed all the resources necessary to maintain such an industry. The number and the tonnage of the vesseds constructed in the yards up and down the river grew steadily. By the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, ships of four and five hundred ton? were no longer marvel?, ßv the end of the second quarter the number of establishments engaged in the building of ships had increased to twenty-five; the annual output to between fifty and sixty large sailing vessels; and the number of artisans employed to five thousand. Only towards the end of the third quarter did serious evidences of decay in what had developed into such a picturesque and thriving industry begin to appear.

Meanwhile a similar industry had sprung into existence in what are now known as the Maritime Provinces. Whereever timber could be floated down rivers to the coast, there a shipbuilding enterprise not infrequently developed. At the end of the Petitcodiac. where the City of Moncton now stands; at Pictou and New Glasgow; at Halifax, Liverpool, Lunenburg and Shelburne, on the south coast of

Nova Scotia; at Yarmouth, Digby and St.(John on the Bay of Fund,’; at Dalhoivtie. Newcastle and Bathui st on the Ne's' Brunswick coast of the Gulf of St. Laurence, flourishing shipy; rds were presently in operation.

rI 'H E output was astonishingly large.

-*■ t or instance, in the year i860 in the county of Lunenburg alone wenly-two vessels of a gross tonnage of 3,138 tons were launcned. Between 1840 and 18c3, over two hundred ships were bi ild at New Glasgow. At Bathurst in the heyday of the industry it was no uncommon sight to see from five to ten of the largest class of merchant ships on the stocks rt the same time. St. John in the ear'y seventies ranked as the fourth port in he British Empire in respect of the ownership of vessels. And in 1865 it is roorted that 294 ships worth two and a l ilf million dollars were built in Nova See :ia. These are disjointed , facts, but they serve to give some idea of the really remarkable extent of the shipbuilding industry on the east coast of Canada in the middle of the last century.

There is a fascinating story to be-written of the palmy mid-ninetee nth-century days of Nova,Scotia shipping, and wrapt up with the tales of how bluenose clippers, sailed by bluenose crews, raced into practically every port in the world, there is the scarcely less absorbing account of how these fine sailing vessels were fashioned in the shipyards of the east coast. In thousands of homes in Maritime ports and fishing villages hang quaint pictures of these old ships, how vanished forever from the ocean tracks. But the memory of the adventurous sailing days still lingers in the minds of the veteran skippers and their crews, many of whom are still living in hale and hearty old age.

T T SEEMS almost incredib e that an

almost exact replica of these former activities is again being staged in Nova Scotia. The evolution of the -toel freighter apparently sounded the death knell of the wooden ship years ago. Yet abnormal conditions have been created by the war. Not alone has there been serious loss of shipping through submarine warfare, necessitating the rapid substitution of new vessels, but the cost of construction of steel ship? has advanced enormously. In Great Britain the requirements of the Admiralty take precedence and the ability of the British shipyards to turn out merchantmen is correspondingly I mited.

Of course the immediate influence which has impelled old-time shipbuilders in the Maritime Provinces to clear up and repair their dismantled and grass-grown yards and to resume once again the occupation of their earlier years has been the high freight rates on ocean tonnage resulting, from the scarcity of shipping. So high have these rates climbed that a single trans-Atlantic voyage is öfter profitable enough to make good the cor: of a ship.

It is estimated that there are at least two score good-sized wooden sailing vessels under construction at present at various points in the Maritime Provinces. In the county of Digby alone, seven ships, ranging in size from three hundred to five hundred and fifty tons are being built— two at Meteghan, one at Meteghan River, one at Grosse Coque, one at Little Brook and two at Belliveau’s Cove. These are all small French Acadian villages lying along the Bay of Fundy shore, inhabited by stout fisherfolk, who are exceedingly handy at everything connected with boats and the sea.

Moving around to the south shore, one finds on the stocks at Shelburne six ships; at Liverpool about the same number, and at Lunenburg, four. Smaller points will account for some six or seven more, giving for the western counties of Nova Scotia, a total of thirty. In the counties of Cumberland and Colchester on the St. Lawrence side of the province several more vessels are being built, so that the estimate of forty all told is about correct.

One of the largest of these east coast, ships is the “Letitia L. Mackay,” which was launched at Meteghan in December. She is being built to the order of A. B. Mackay, the Hamilton shipowner. A description of this fine large vessel wdli give some idea of the general run of the ships on the ways in Nova Scotia.

T T MAY be asked how such a ship compares with the old-time vessels launch ed from the Nova Scotia shipyards. As a matter of fact, it is considerably under the average. In the early days of shipbuilding, vessels as large as 2,400 tons or six times bigger than the “Letitia L. Mackay” were sometimes constructed. Today such giants could not likely be produced because it would be difficult to obtain the timber. At the same time Maritime shipbuilders believe that it would be possible to import wood from British Columbia and still build ships as cheaply as they could be constructed on the Pacific Coast—this, because of the cheapness of labor. Its dimensions are 165 ft. length, 36 ft. beam; 14 ft. hold, with 568 net tons register and 1,150 tons dead weight. With the exception of the spars, booms and bowsprit, which are of Oregon fir, and the stem and stern post and rudder stock, which are of imported oak, all the wood used in construction was obtained in the neighborhood. The frames are of birch; the planking and decks of spruce and the knees of hacmatack. The canvas will be made in Yarmouth and all the iron and steel required will be obtained in Sydney. The wire rigging, anchors and chains come from England and the copper from the United States. The schooner, which carries four masts, will be equipped with a gasoline engine for handling the sails and cargo.

The labor question is an interesting one. When shipbuilding was at its height between 1850 and 1875, nearly everybody in the Maritime Provinces worked in the shipyards or at some of the trades connected either directly or indirectly with them. To-day comparatively few of the old workmen are alive. It has been necessary to hunt all over the country for such of them as are still able to work. And worried shipbuilders have had to trace others to the United States and induce them to come back. Then to supplement this skilled labor, new hands have had to be broken in, all of which has taken

time and delayed construction. In the case of the “Letitia L. Mackay,” it was over seven months between the keel-laying and the launching.

D UT THE revival of wooden shipbuilding has not been confined to the Atlantic coast. It has its exemplification as well on the Pacific coast. There the shipping famine has made itself even more severely felt. An absolute lack of bottoms in which to carry British Columbia timber to the antipodes and other distant markets has completely paralyzed the Western province’s foremost industry. The great coast sawmills have been closed down; thousands of lumberjacks have been thrown out of employment; every occupation dependent on lumbering has suffered loss—all because it has been impossible to keep the output moving freely from British Columbia producer to Antipodean consumer.

In the east, the building of v^ooden ships has been wholly the result of individual enterprise. In the west it is an undertaking in which the whole population of a great province is vitally interested. The welfare of the entire com-

munity was dependent on the obtaining of adequate shipping facilities and, to compass this desirable object, the legislature itself took action to bring about the construction of a fleet of timber carriers. To-day that fleet is being rapidly evolved. The first of twenty-five vessels is to be launched in December and from then on, until the complement is complete, from one to three sister ships are to he put in the water monthly.

Big mep in the Canadian transportation field have come to the assistance of British Columbia in its emergency. They were on the ground when the shipping bill was enacted into law in the dying moments of the last legislature. They immediately set in motion machinery that within a month turned idle shipyards at North Vancouver and at Victoria into hives of industry. One of them was James Carruthers, head of the Canada Steamship Lines; another was J. W. Norcross, managing director of that important organization”. James Whalen, president of the ship-building company operating at Port Arthur; M. J. Haney, the well-known contractor; and Roy M. Wolvin, grain operator and great lakes transportation man, were all interested; and so? too, was Sir Trevor Dawson,,managing director of the famous Vickers shipyards in London and Montreal.

ORGANIZATION of a powerful corporation that would build and operate a fleet of ship« under the terms of the B.C. Shipping Act was a trifling affair. There emerged, under the aegis of the Secretary of State, the Canadian West Coast Navigation Company, Limited,— capital, two and one-half million dollars ; purpose, to engage in business as a shipping and transportation company. Within a month, the keel of the company's first ^ ship, the Mabel Brown, was laid in the *new yards of the Wallace Shipbuilding Gompany at North Vancouver. As quickly as the ground could be prepared and equipment assembled, the work of construction of five sister ships was begun, while across the straits in the yards of the Cameron-Genoa Mills at Victoria, two more vessels of identical design were laid down.

What was the magic that has wrought such marvellous works? It is evidently to be found in the long-winded legal phraseology of the British Columbia Shipping Act. This notable measure contains three significant provisions. First, it offers a bonus or subsidy on each of the first twenty-five ships built in the province after the passing of the Act. Second, it makes available government loans on the security of-the vessels thus constructed. Third, it extends the privileges of a governmental guarantee to any bond issue that may be gtade by companies organised to engage in the construction of vessels intended for British Columbia export trade.

It is the first of these three provisions that has attracted eastern capital to the province. Look at it a little more cloeely. ’Clause 53, H is called, and it ruas in this

fashion: “In aid of the shipbuilding industry of the Province there shall be paid to the owner of each ship up to a number of ships not exceeding twenty-five or such further number as the Legislature shall provide for—these vessels to be built af^er the act comes into effect—a subsidy in ten annual instalments, each of which instalments shall be so computed as to bring the net earnings of the ship up to 15 per cent, of the actual cost of construction, but so that the amount of subsidy paid in any one year shall never exceed an amount equal to $5 a ton dead weight capacity of the ship. The first instalment shall be payable the first year after the declaration of peace. This subsidy is subject only to the “bona fide" uses of the ship in British Columbia trade for outward borne cargoes returning to some British Columbia port of reloading with liberty to carry return cargo to any port along the general practical line of return. ^Moneys for these subsidies shall be paid to the Commission from the provincial consolidated revenue fund. Subsidies shall only be payable to the owner who actually paid for the construction of the ship and not to any middleman or promotor. Subsidies shall not be liable or subject to assignment, attachment, garnishment or process of execution.”

THE section further stipulates that the subsidy or bonus will lapse if later on the Dominion Government should decide to pay a subsidy equalling or exceeding $5 a ton. More than that, if in any year the profits of operating a ship exceed fifteen per cent of the cost of its construction, then no subsidy shall be paid for that year, nor is any subsidy to be paid unless the ships trade continuously to and from British Columbia ports and under the direction of the Shipping Commission appointed under the terms of the Act

Note how neatly this legislation gets around that obstacle to shipbuilding enterprise — the uncertainty o f after - war conditions. To-day ocean ■-a' es are high and the or* ration of ships is piotitable. To-morrow, who knows, rates may be :ut to pieces and the business of ocean transpo'tation be conducted a; a loss. Guarantee a nhipowner’s profits for ten years and the proposition of building and operating ships takes or. ;iuite a different aspect * And the Province of British Columbia is dong. It is guaranteeing Messrs. Larruthers, Nr rcross. Haney, Wolvin and their associates a profitable investment while incidentally it is making sure that these that is precísele what gentlemen will employ their boats to the advantage of the industrial and commercial interests of the province.

IMMEDIATELY upon the enactment of the Shipping Bill, the shipping commission was appointed. It consists o" H. B. Thomson, formerly M.P.P. for Victoria, who stood sponsor for the measure in the Legislature last spring; Frederick? Buscombe, of Vancouver, and W. J. Goepel, Deputy Minister of Finance, 'he latter appointed under the Act by virtue of his official position. The members of the Commission serve without salary.

The part played by the Shipoin ? Commission is an important one. They must approve the plans and specification » of the ships built under the Act. They are required to determine the rate yf wages to be paid both in the construction and operation of the ships. Every charter of a ship shall be subject to their approval when such ship is operated under a loan from the Commission, and in all such cases the superintendent of the Commission is required to act as the managing owner of the ship until the loar is repaid. More than that, the Comrai »sion is to see that the actual rates paid >n British Columbia shipments shall never exceed rates paid on similar commodities at even dates in the States of Washington and California.

This, then, is the machinery that has been provided by the legislators of British Columbia for bringing a fleet cf merchantmen into being. It is the mag c touch that is responsible for the awakening of such ûnwonted activity in the shipyards of the province. And now, let us see what type of vessels are being evolved as a result.

THE EIGHT ships under construction for the Canada West Coast Navigation Gompany and a ninth versol being built independently by the C imeronGenoa Mills Shipbuilders, Limited, are all identical in design. They are five-masted schooners,

225 feet in length, 45 feet beam and lb feet depth of ho d. The ships will have a deadweight carryiryr capacity of 2,500 tons and will carry a cargo of approximately 1.700,000 feet of lumber, which is a good average quantity for any one consignee at any one time. An important feature is the inclusion in the equipment of each ship of two 240 h.p. Bolinder-Diesel internal combustion engines. These ate of Swedish build and the most efficient engines of their class in existence. They are capable of driving the boats at a speed of SH knots an hour. Tank: barrels of distillate will su fuel to give each ship a ste of 11,000 miles.

It is astonishing to learn that over a million feet of fir lumber is consumed in building one of these mammoth wooden ships. For the knees alone four hundred trees must be sacrificed to the woodman’s axe. These knees are thick, angular pieces of wood used in supporting the deck beams. Securing and preparing them is perhaps one of the most picturesque operations in the whole process of building the ship. First, fir trees averaging thirty inches in diameter are selected. Then these are thrown. Next the stump is torn from the ground bydynamite and donkey-engine, roughhewed on the spot and hauled to the shipyard. There it is sawed to the required dimensions.

/COMMISSIONER THOMSON gives ^ some interesting facts in connection with the actual building of the ships. He estimates that fully a thousand men are now employed directly in the shipyards and sawmills connfcted with the yards and in the lumber camps, where the knees are obtained. Indirectly many more than these thousand men are given employment The lumber used in the construction of the ships at present under way will keep three mills, each cutting 50,000 feet of lumber daily and employing in logging camp and millshed 200 men each, busy for a year. But, he adds, only a comparatively small percentage of the cut can be utilized in ship construction and so the 25,000,000 feet used in the schooners probably represents a total cut of 200,000,000 feet and the employment for a year of a dozen mills and between two and three thousand men.

A sentimental touch is imparted to the new industry by the names selected for the eight ships of the Canada West Coast Navigation Company. The first of the eight to be launched in December will be christened the Mabel Brown, in honor of Mrs. H. W. Brown, whose husband is general manager of the H. W. Brown Company Limited, the firm in charge of the actual construction of the ships for the Navigation Company, The next vessel to be completed and launched at North Vancouver will be known as the Geraldine Wolvin, in honor of the wife of the pre-

sident of the new shipping corporation. The first of the Victoria-built ships, which will be launched in the middle of January. will bear the name of the Margaret Haney, after Mrs. M. J. Haney, of Toronto. Then will come the Jessie Norcross; the Janet Carruthers; the Mabel Stewart, and so on, each of the principals of the company gallantly naming a ship, in honor of his better half.

Already the company is lining up skippers and crews to man the fleetThey will be secured from the hardy sea-faring folk of the east coastThus, built of Canadian wood, fashioned by Canadian workmen, registered at the Canadian capital; flying the Canadian flag; manned by Canadian crews, and carrying cargoes of Canadian products, they will be in every detail a credit to the Dominion. Their completion will be an achievement of which the people of Canada may well be proud.

SURVEYING the shipbuilding activities on both coasts, one cannot but admit that the revival of the old wooden industry is a picturesque development of the present day. But it is obviously ephemeral. The steel ship wiLl soon come back into its own when once the conclusion of peace releases millions of tons of

shipping from military and naval uses. And that is why no Canadian should lay too much stress on the present flurry in wooden ships. Rather should he inquire into the resources of the country in the matter of facilities for building steel vessels. *

Apart from a few small steel freighters built at one or other of our oce^n port*, construction of steel steamers iu Canada has been limited very largely to vessel# designed for lake navigation. Our shipyards are not located at Halifax, ßjdney, or St. John, but at Port Arthur, Callingwood and Toronto. When it comes to trans-Atlantic service, the British-built freighter has had the field to itself» even when operated by a Canadian company. To-day, oddly enough, Canadian shipyards are notiengaged in a feverish effort to build ships* for a national marine, but they are practically all busy turning out steel freight*!;# for neutral shipowners. Norway in particular, a country that has suffered very serious losses as a result of the submarine activities of the Germans, has placed orders for ships that will keep Canadian builders occupied for many months. Already two, three-thousand ton freighters for Norway have been launched at Port Arthur and two more are under construction at the same shipbuilding plant, that of the Western Drydock and Shipbuilding Co. The Poison Iron Works at Toronto are at work on two similar ships and have orders for two more of larger size. The Thor Iron Works, also of Toronto, have two freighters under way; and the Canadian Vickers plant at Montreal is building two

7.000ton vessels.

These Norwegian freighters are of the single deck type, with poop, bridge and forecastle. They have two cargo holds with hatches in each hold. The propelling machinery is located amidships. The

3.000ton type are 261 feet long, 48 feet 6 inches wide and 28 feet two inches'deep. They are built to take the highes4, clam in Lloyd registry and under their apecial survey. The government has issue# pernuts for the construction of Ihese ships, one condition being that during the war they should not engage in anv enemy trade, and another that no demand should be made on Great Britain for materials, machinery or labor to build them.

Conttnued on page 87.

Continuation of

Canada’s Boom in Shipbuilding

on page 8Q

Canada’s Boom in Shipbuilding

Continued from page 19.

THERE are also some shipbuilding de!

velopments to note on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. At New Glasgow, the Nova Scotia Steed and Coal Co. are now building one steel freighter, designed for their own use and they have recently' announced that they will also build a second vessel. Colonel Cantley, president of the company, has expre>*sed himself very -trongly on the puestior of building up a | Canadian marine. He believes that now j b the time for Canada to take action and by starting a steel shipbuilding industry at New Glasgow, he is putting his beliefs j into practice.

At the Wallace Shipyards at Vancou■ a steel steamer is now under construction for a Japanese shipping concern. She will Ina single deck, single screw cargo Ixiat. ’ilñ feet long, 48 feet beam and 22 feet depth of hold, with 4.000 tor.? dead weight carrying capacity. In addition to this ship the yard has sufii■ dent orders in hand to keep the plant busy for the r.e.xt two years. Other plants at Vancouver, New Westminster and I’rince Rupert are also reported as havng orders for several Norwegian boats, or. the construction of which they will -tart immediately.

This. then, summarizes the present shipbuilding activities in Canada—an enT i rely unexpected revival of the old woodshipbuilding industry and a concentraj tior: of effort on the part of the builders "f steel ships on the construction of standard freighters for Norwegian shipowners. It is a peculiar situation, the outcome of which will be watched with it to rest.