Nostalgia for Marine Industrie comes to the surface in Sorel-Tracy when we talk about the Davie shipyard. In this town in the Montérégie, the construction of icebreakers in Quebec territory represents an opportunity to reconnect with what was once its economic backbone: shipbuilding.

We will not start building ships again on the banks of the Richelieu River, concedes the mayor of the municipality, Patrick Péloquin, in an interview with La Presse. But “sides”, such as parts of cabins, gangways and other parts that go into making the many modules needed to design a ship, it is possible, believes the politician.

“The ecosystem that existed around Marine Industrie still exists,” says Mr. Péloquin. The companies that were around still exist, but they have turned to something else. »

Davie’s inclusion in the National Shipbuilding Strategy (SNCN) has “ringed bells” in Sorel-Tracy, says its mayor. The City quickly realized that it could benefit from the $8.5 billion in potential contracts that could come from Ottawa for the construction of seven icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard.

Mr. Péloquin is also part of the European trade mission organized by the Association of Suppliers of Chantier Davie Canada, which runs until Friday. Before taking off, he gave an overview of his ambitions in the company of David Plasse, General Manager of Economic Development Pierre-De Saurel, as well as Nancy Annie Léveillée, Director of the Société des parcs Industriels Sorel-Tracy.

“We have approximately six million feet available – notably in the Ludger-Simard industrial park, where Marine Industrie was once located – for industrial development, points out Mr. Péloquin. We are between Montreal, Trois-Rivières and Quebec/Lévis. What sets us apart is that in maritime construction, we are sometimes in oversized parts. Transport must be by water. And we have the infrastructure. »

The shipyard where Marine Industrie was located started up in the late 1930s. Located on the Richelieu River, near the St. Lawrence River, the site experienced its heyday after the Second World War, when some 10,000 people worked there.

After changing ownership in the 1970s, the shipyard stopped building ships in 1988, resulting in the loss of over 1,500 jobs. The company disappeared for good in 1991.

“It was a big drama in the region when everything stopped,” recalls Mr. Péloquin. At some point in the town’s history, Marine Industrie employed half of the workers here. »

In recent weeks, the possibility of seeing the shipbuilding sector generate spinoffs in Sorel-Tracy has emerged.

“If it had been said a few years ago that the region’s economic boom could come from shipbuilding, no one would have believed us. »

In addition to the industrial land available and the port infrastructure that is still present, Sorel-Tracy also has private railway lines that provide access to the network of the Canadian National Railway Company (CN).

It is these assets that Mr. Péloquin wants to dangle on the Old Continent to European companies interested in being part of the Davie shipyard supply chain.

“Parts [of icebreakers] must be produced in Canada,” said the politician. I do not hide it: for us, there is also a recruitment mission for companies that would like to participate in the federal strategy. A French company could not produce parts in France and ship them to Canada. They should come and stay with us. »

Mr. Péloquin says he does not want to outdo Lévis and the surrounding area when it comes to Chantier Davie’s supply chain. He believes that his city can play a complementary role. In an interview with La Presse, the mayor of Lévis, Gilles Lehouillier, had also indicated that he was cramped in his municipality in terms of industrial land.

Shipbuilding is still generating spillovers in Sorel-Tracy, but these are flying under the radar. According to Développement économique Pierre-De Saurel, Acier Richelieu manufactures “small parts” of ships for companies like Groupe CSL, Fednav and Groupe Desgagnés.