Article courtesy of Joann Alberstat, Chronical Herald

The federal shipbuilding program was clearly on the minds of delegates at a Canada-U.S. regional trade conference Tuesday in Halifax.

What was supposed to be a panel about innovation in the marine, defence and technology sectors turned into a discussion instead about ways of landing work related to new coast guard and navy ships.

Panel moderator Glenn Copeland said any discussion these days about those industries is going to focus on the shipbuilding program.

“You have to take a look at who you have in the audience,” he said in an interview. “Predominantly, you have people who want to do business in Nova Scotia.”

Copeland, a project manager at Lockheed Martin Canada’s Dartmouth facility, said the program is designed to be a made-in-Canada one but at the same time, much of the expertise and technology that is needed doesn’t exist within our borders.

“You’ve got an interesting conundrum,” he told the Southeastern United States-Canadian Provinces Alliance conference.

Lockheed Martin is a subcontractor on the first phase of the shipbuilding plan, involving building Arctic offshore patrol ships.

Alan Parslow, chief executive officer of Deep Vision Inc., said partnering is essential for companies wanting to get on board in the high-tech sector.

“You have to find those partners who have a supplementary capability that you don’t have,” said Parslow, whose Dartmouth firm specializes in detection technology.

Panellist Keith Donaldson, with Moncton manufacturing firm Apex Industries Inc., said Europe and the United States are the best place to look for help.

“Our aim, as a small business, was to team up with companies that have existing technologies that want to come into Canada,” said the director of sales and business development.

Leo Gaessler told the forum that companies should be proactive in helping would-be customers define their needs in rapidly changing industries.

Gaessler said his firm, Ultra Electronics Maritime Systems Inc., is involved in supporting university research in the modelling of sonar and acoustics, its field of expertise. The company, based in Woodside Industrial Park, is also working on plans that involve simulation programs.

“We can create a vision for them of how the system would work, based on the physics, based on what we can deliver,” said Gaessler, Ultra Electronics’ vice-president of sales and marketing. “We’re trying to create an environment where the customer can visualize what they can achieve for X amount of dollars before they actually write the specs.”

The company will soon announce details of its investment in various initiatives, he said.

A Mississippi shipyard official said firms in Canada and the U.S. should jointly look for opportun-ities overseas as governments tighten their belts at home.

“I think there’s an openness there and a willingness, and there’s not a real big fear of taking jobs away,” said Christie Thomas, director of business development with Ingalls Shipbuilding of Pascagoula, Miss.