Unlocking North Vancouver History

A Riveted Community: North Vancouver’s Wartime Shipbuilding

Building the Berth

Work crews constructed the ships from the bottom up, making use of the scaffolding on both sides of the berth on the way up. Once the keel had been laid, the bottom finished, and the plate shops had fabricated the necessary sections of hull, cranes swung each plate into position. Then the process of riveting the hull together began. At the time, shipbuilding mainly consisted of labour-intensive piecework — much like building a ship of Lego — rather than joining prefabricated bow, stern and mid-ship sections, as became customary in the postwar years. The wooden cranes used during wartime were partly responsible for this, as they could lift only five tons (4.54 t). The West Coast’s mild climate meant that work could effectively continue year-round in the outdoor building berths, one factor contributing to the North Vancouver shipyards’ high productivity when compared with eastern Canadian yards, especially in Quebec.

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The next prefabricated piece of the cargo vessel is about to be dropped in place. The keel has been laid and the hull is beginning to take shape.

This work took place in the building berth at Burrard Dry Dock’s north yard.

Efficiency was critical from 1942 to 1945. As soon as one hull was launched into Burrard Inlet, the next one was started.

Fitters and shipwrights prepared the bottom keel plates for the hull.

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