St. John’s-based shipping giant Oceanex announced Thursday it is adding a new $108-million container ship to its fleet.
Company representatives were in Germany last week for the cutting of first steel for what will be the largest flag container/roll-on roll-off ship in Canada, the Oceanex Connaigra, due to join the company’s MV Cabot, Oceanex Sanderling and Oceanex Avalon next fall.
“We want to grow our business and be ready for the future,” Sid Hynes, executive chairman of Oceanex, told The Telegram on Thursday afternoon. “A vessel’s not something you buy every day. It’s a long-term investment. The life of this is probably 35, 40 years, so it’s planning to facilitate the growth we see over the long haul, not just next year or the following year.”
Hynes joked that if the company was just focused on the short-term, turmoil in the world economy would have it rethinking the new vessel.
“If we got serious about the world economy, we probably wouldn’t buy a ship at all,” he said, laughing. “So we’re hoping we’ll outlive that, eventually, and it’ll be all right before we’re finished with her. At the moment, it’s pretty good here and things are going well, so we’re pretty excited.”
The company is still determining whether the Connaigra will replace one of its current ships or if it will open up service to another area. The company provides transportation services between Mexico, the United States and mainland Canada to St. John’s, as well as shipment over land across Newfoundland. Asked where the company might expand to, Hynes stayed mum.
“We live in a very competitive world,” he said.
The ship’s price tag dwarfs the $10 million to $15 million each that Oceanex’s current vessels cost a few decades ago, said Hynes. The ship, being built by Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft of Germany, will be 210 metres long with a carrying capacity of 19,500 metric tonnes. The ship will also feature a dry-scrubber exhaust gas-cleaning system to exceed air-emission regulations, earning a “clean” designation by DNV, a Norway-based classification and evaluation organization.
The ship is named after the Connaigre Peninsula, suggested during a company-wide contest to name the new vessel.
“Connaigre gets its name from the French, back in I think 1750, thereabouts,” said Hynes.
“Back in those days, the ice
used to come out of the Gulf and flow all the way down the south coast and it would come down the Labrador Sea and flow out west. And Connaigre Harbour, or Great Harbour, as it was called by the French, was one of the few harbours that was safe and ice-free year-round.” Last but not least, said Hynes, is the fact his hometown of Harbour Breton is on the Connaigre Peninsula.
Blocks will be laid in Flensburg’s docks for assembly of the ship Feb. 12. The Connaigre is expected to be launched May 31, with sea trials scheduled for September before it’s delivered to Newfoundland Oct. 1.
“It’s been a lot of fun to participate with the whole team. It’s a custom-designed ship for our service, our business. To go through all that and hopefully see it work and figure out how we’re going to pay for it after we get it, I suppose,” he said.