Halifax has North America’s largest single building for constructing ships.
It’s an appropriately grand statistic, given how important shipbuilding is—and was—to our Maritime city. Halifax’s shipbuilding industry began in 1751 when the governor offered ten shillings per ton for every new vessel produced. As our city grew through the early 1800s, so did the building of ships large enough to export our riches of timber and fish. No wonder Halifax’s deep, ice-free port continues to be a natural shipbuilding site.
These days, you can’t say “shipbuilding” in Halifax without thinking “Irving”. Irving Shipbuilding Inc. has been a behemoth on the national stage for decades. That’s more true than ever since the launching of Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy—the federal government’s 2010 commitment to providing the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard with much-needed vessels. Irving Shipbuilding was selected to build the Navy's new combat fleet, including 21 vessels and more than $60 billion over 30 years.
There’s more to shipbuilding in Halifax than this historic company. Nova Scotia's marine industry leads in fields including acoustic hull design, system electronics, sonar technologies, and computer-aided manufacturing. But it only makes sense to begin with Irving Shipbuilding.
The gravity of Irving Shipbuilding is undeniable.
Historically, Irving Shipbuilding has supplied industries around the world including oil and gas, petrochemical, power generation, pulp and paper, transportation, mining and related heavy industries. Today, they’re most known by locals for their Halifax Shipyard—a facility that can handle new builds up to 120m and ship repair for vessels up to Panamax size beam.
This massive building (the largest single such building in North America) covers 18,000 square metres of water frontage. The Assembly and Ultra Hall is 48 metres high at its highest point and 407 metres long. Within its walls are two 130-tonne and two 200-tonne bridge cranes that span the width of the building; two state-of-the-art, fully-enclosed paint booths; moveable elevated production floors; a 12-metre-wide panel line and sub-assemblies area; along with employee offices and training rooms. Final assembly is done outdoors on a land-level construction point before ships are launched into Halifax Harbour.
Of course, a monster like this attracts a large number of satellites that are drawn to its powerful gravitational force—businesses that support the city’s shipbuilding industry in their own way. As an entire industry, it positions Halifax as a multi-faceted leader in shipbuilding.
“Irving Shipbuilding and all of its employees are proving that Nova Scotia is ready to build the best. This is a defining moment in Nova Scotia's history. The future starts here.”
- Darrell Dexter, NS Premier (2011)
Our high and still rising shipbuilding tide lifts all boats.
Halifax’s shipbuilding industry has impressive spinoff benefits for machining, metal fabricators, ship repair, software development, and other industries that support it in countless ways.
Global aerospace and defense company that manufactures combat vehicles, nuclear-powered submarines, communications systems, and more.
Lockheed Martin Canada
Experts in the engineering, design, procurement, integration, and delivery of ship command and surveillance systems.
Builder of semi-custom vessels from 6 to 10+ meters, built to serve the needs of the Professional Marine Community in a variety of sectors.
Development of the Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) products that enables the support of AOPS during its lifecycle
Creating and recruiting future shipbuilders.
Nova Scotia Community College, Irving Shipbuilding Inc, and indigenous communities are collaborators in the creation of a two-year program—Pathways to Shipbuilding. This innovative program is aimed at helping Indigenous students find a career in the city’s shipbuilding boom. The first round of this program is recruiting future metal fabricators.
Contact Discover Halifax to learn more!
Ready to learn more, or to start planning your event in Halifax? Contact our sector expert today.
Paul Bailey (he/him)
Sales & Marketing Director - Group Sales (Aerospace & Defense)
Phone: 1.902.334.1846 (Atlantic Time Zone)
Office/Mail: 1809 Barrington Street, Suite 1004, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J 3K8