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Ian Durke became General Manager of Njord Marine Service Ltd. in Campbell River, B.C., in 2019. The company works in the aquaculture industry on the west coast and Njord Marine Service Ltd. has been participating in the production of healthy fish on Canada's west coast since 2017.
"We have seven vessels, including six catamarans and one monohull. The cats are specifically designed for operating around net-pens to do net management and washing, treatment support, anchoring, or grid maintenance and repairs, freight runs and overall site support," says Durke.
He came out of the commercial fishery which was a career for him from the 1990s. The company he was with worked in partnership with an aquaculture company engaged in growing salmon and he shifted from commercial fisheries to farmed fish.
Most people know fish farms operate year round, and the net-pen sites have a host of maintenance schedules and commitments. Njord Marine Service Ltd. has an office in Campbell River where Ian and Blake the logistics & maintenance coordinator spend most days working. Durke works with other management team members, Chris Engel and Jesse MacLeod, and company clients, to keep things operating smoothly.
"We presently have 35 employees and we are hiring. We had 50 employees before the Discovery Islands decision by the DFO minister in 2020. We lost 12 out of that decision. We had to tie up vessels. We fortunately obtained a new contract from one of the fish farm companies, so we are back to hiring."
Of course this means Njord Marine Service Ltd. has to cycle through the process of training new personnel and equipping them with operational skills for vessels, ROVs, and farm site orientation and understanding. "We will be doing treatment support and net management as well as suppling OFA level 3 first aid attendants for these contracts. We will do work on the grid systems and net installations. We will support the salmon producers' treatment vessels," says Durke.
These jobs pay well and provide full-time year round employment. The people in the fish farming industry earn good salaries. The ship's captains are certified by Transport Canada. All personnel meet and exceed WorkSafeBC requirments. And everybody abides by the rigorous standards imposed by regulations over fish farms in B.C.'s coastal waters.
Njord Marine Service Ltd. has been able to retain the core of their workforce, "I have a lot of great people with long-standing service in the company. When I was hired on, Njord Marine Service Ltd. was entering a growth phase, especially in 2018. We were beginning to get busy with these specifically designed vessels." The company began service in B.C. in 2017 with one cat, and added two more each year and a monohull in 2021 up to 7 vessels.
"We are a proud B.C. company with B.C. crews. We get our equipment and machine maintenance done locally, most of it in Port Hardy, Campbell River, Nanaimo and Victoria. We find our crew members from Victoria, Chemainus, Nanaimo, Campbell River, and Port Hardy. We have job opportunities are for deckhands, captains, more recently we are looking for an office admin person. We hire out of local colleges like Western Maritime Institute, in Ladysmith, B.C., and others," says Durke.
"You need to be a hard worker, have that ethic, and you need to love working at sea. For the most part, these are jobs for people who have marine work experience and are looking for careers. Our captains have tickets for 60 tonne vessels, 150 tonne vessels, and 500 tonne vessels."
The mono-hull in the fleet does the mechanical de-lousing service on farm sites. The name of the ship is Coastal Server and it utilizes a Skamik system. The vessel arrived from overseas this past December.
"We have seen a great synergy on the west coast bringing people together including reconciliation with First Nation communities and business leaders."