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Daniel MacEachern
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Ministers meet with business reps, as part of Atlantic shipbuilding plan

New Brunswick MP Bernard Valcourt, minister of state for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, tries out a simulator at Virtual Marine Technology Monday morning. — Photos by Daniel MacEachern/The Telegram

New Brunswick member of Parliament Bernard Valcourt lowered the lifeboat into the choppy seas and guided it past icebergs to load passengers stranded on a ship in distress.

And he did it on Hallett Crescent in St. John’s.

The minister of state for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency tried out a lifeboat simulation at Virtual Marine Technology Monday morning, as Labrador MP Peter Penashue looked on.

Both ministers toured the St. John’s business following a meeting early Monday morning with representatives of small- and medium-sized businesses at a supplier development information session, part of a series being organized as part of the federal government’s Atlantic Shipbuilding Action Plan.

The plan’s stated goal is to maximize opportunities across the Atlantic Region to take part in the multibillion-dollar shipbuilding contract announced late in 2011.

Randy Billard, Virtual Marine Technology’s executive vice-president and chief technology officer, said the tour was a great way to demonstrate what his company and other businesses like it are capable of.

“We spun off some very successful research that was here, housed here at the (Memorial) university,” Billard said.

“We continue to work with the university as well as grow our relationships and our technical team here, and our ability to work on projects such as a national shipbuilding procurement strategy is just going up. We are part of supply chains with Tier 1 and Tier 2 vendors who are going to be working on supplying the vessels and supplying the training as well as the technology for those systems. The biggest thing we can offer is our ability to contribute very high-fidelity, very sound training devices, as well as some simulator-integration work that we really pride ourselves on, having very highly qualified engineering expertise that can work on a number of different projects.”

With $25 billion of the federal shipbuilding contract going to work being done at Irving’s shipyard in Halifax, there’s a lot of business out there not only for shipbuilders in Nova Scotia, but for related industries across the Atlantic region, Billard said.

“We’re hoping to work with other groups. Obviously we’re not a boat builder. We’re not a group that can actually build a full ship, but no matter what boat or whatever system has to go out there, there is certain training required for people to become competent either on the manoeuvring and the bridge-mastering of that vessel, or mastering the equipment that’s on these types of vessels,” he said.

“So I think our best fit is for us to help deliver very sound training packages as well as simulation products which can be used to get people familiar with the equipment that’s on board a vessel, the operations that the vessel has to perform, as well as making sure that people, before they get on those boats, have some sort of situational awareness of what we have to do.”

Penashue declined to take a turn piloting the lifeboat, but said he was impressed by the demonstration of the technology. “I think this is an excellent technology. It’s obviously a branch off from the university and a bunch of people got together and had this wonderful idea of providing this service that’s technologically inclined,” he said.

“I give praise to the people who put this together. Very impressed.”

 

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Geographic location: New Brunswick, Atlantic Region, Halifax Nova Scotia

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