Province seeks buyer for Bas-Caraquet shipyard buildings

The New Brunswick government is looking to sell buildings at the provincially-owned Bas-Caraquet shipyard following its main tenant pulling out after a dispute with the government. 

The proposed sale, announced earlier this month in advertisements in several daily newspapers, follows one of the main tenants in the government-owned shipyard pulling out over a dispute with the provincial government. 

Bruce Macfarlane, a spokesperson for the provincial government, told Radio-Canada in an email that the attempt to find a buyer follows the departure of Quebec-based Groupe Océan.

"Since the main tenant, Groupe Océan, recently left the building, we are now accepting expressions of interest from companies interested in this vacant industrial building," Macfarlane said.

The ad seeks "expressions of interest" in purchasing the buildings at the shipyard on the Acadian Peninsula.

The buildings include a fabrication shop with equipment and tools and a second building constructed in 2016 with a storage area, offices, locker rooms and a lunch room.

The ad for the shipyard buildings states that expressions of interest, due Jan. 13, should include an "outline of a business case of the building."

That would include things like the type of business, employment numbers, potential economic impacts and proof of the ability to finance the purchase. 

It's not clear how soon a decision may be made if there are expressions of interest. 

Alix Villeneuve/Radio-Canada

Groupe Océan said in a statement that it "deplores the turn of events" that led to it leaving the facility in mid-October. 

The company, which built and repaired ships at the site, was one of several companies that leased space in the shipyard.

The shipyard was launched in 2014 by two municipalities and taken over by the previous Liberal government for about $38 million after it ran short of cash. 

Previous federal and provincial governments have spent millions on the facility. 

Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs rejected a request for another $1 million to finish a slipway to move boats between the yard and the water. The company said it would allow it to bid on contracts for larger vessels. Without it, the company said it "had to shut down."

Higgs has said in the legislature that previous provincial funding for the facility amounted to "abusing taxpayers' money."

Submitted/Groupe Océan

There were 37 temporary layoffs of Groupe Océan workers at the shipyard following the decision.

Then over the summer, the province sought to block the company from moving a $13-million dry dock financed by the province to another of the company's yards in Quebec.

The issue went to court, with the Federal Court ruling in the company's favour in September. The company left the following month.