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Coast Guard vessel to be tested in Leamington
By Bryan Jessop

Wheatley’s Hike Metal is on a roll!

The local shipbuilding business will test one of the six recently completed Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue vessels within close proximity to the Leamington Municipal Marina. Using a 220-ton crane, the vessel will be intentionally rolled over to test its ability to self right at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 20. Although a follow-up dinner will be exclusive to invited guests, the general public will be welcomed to view the self-righting test.

Once the search and rescue boat and the crane are in place, the procedure is expected to take only a few minutes to complete. The timeline for the test is being carefully orchestrated around the Jiiman’s schedule to ensure that set up, testing and equipment take removal and take down are completed after its 10 a.m. departure and well before its 5 p.m. return.

“This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” explained Hike Metal project manager Roger Stanton. “It’ll be pretty cool to see.”

Exterior equipment including the mast will be removed from the test boat prior to testing to ensure it is not damaged during the rollover. As part of the procedure, cameras will be stationed both inside the vessel and along it’s exterior. Another camera will record the test from the air on board a remote drone.

The boat will be situated in the area where the Jiiman normally rests, about 50 feet out from the docks. Stanton explained that onlookers will be able to witness the test from along the boardwalk between the docks and marina, although the precise time and location of the event may change depending on weather conditions.

A contract to build six new Coast Guard search and rescue boats was struck up between the federal government and Hike Metal in 2015 as part of the government’s Vessel Procurement Program established to support small shipyards across Canada. The boats will all be shipped to Halifax and then dispersed between harbours along the nation’s eastern and western seaboards. The vessel being tested in Leamington will be sent to Vancouver.

The six boats are among those being built to replace 10 to 12 that were built for the Coast Guard about 20 years ago — four of which were built by Hike Metal. The new additions each measure about 19 meters/62 feet in length and weigh in at about 53 tons. All but two of Hike’s 30 workers were dedicated to the latest project, putting in a combined 20,000-plus man hours. The local shipbuilder conducted the entire construction process for all six vessels, the first of which made a trial run from Wheatley Harbour in the fall of 2017. The contract was valued at $43 million.

The vessels’ hulls and wheelhouses were built separate indoors and then taken outside to be joined together. From there, each boat was brought back indoors for painting.

“These are very complex, sophisticated boats with all the most modern technology on board,” Stanton explained. “They’re very state of the art. Everything was installed by hand — there was a lot of custom manufacturing and it all showed up as one big pile of aluminum.”

An announcement was recently made that Hike Metal would be contracted to build more boats for the federal government. As the two sides are still in the preliminary stages of working out a contract, it is not yet known how many more of the vessels will be built at the Wheatley facility.



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