Shipyard Changes Hands - Background Information
History of the McLarens in Shipbuilding
W.D. McLaren, father of Allied’s founder T.A. (Arthur) McLaren and the grandfather of the current generation of ‘managing’ McLarens, was a partner in the Coaster Construction Company, a shipyard on the East Coast of Scotland. In the 1920’s, the company built a number of steamships for the Union Steamship Company’s services in British Columbia. Those that saw service in the Canadian province included the “Lady Cecilia”, “Lady Cynthia”, “Lady Alexandra”, and the “Catala”.
Coaster’s yard closed in 1927 for lack of work and W.D., along with his young family, emigrated to British Columbia. W.D. set up as a consulting Naval Architect, facing slow times through the depression of the 1930’s. In Vancouver, W.D. designed the “Lady Rose”, which was built in Scotland in 1937. The vessel was in service at Port Alberni until 2011.
At the start of World War II, W.D. McLaren was hired as Managing Director of West Coast Shipbuilders, located in Vancouver’s False Creek. The company built fifty-five 10,000-ton cargo ships (Liberty Ships) for the Canadian Government as part of Canada’s World War II effort.
W.D.’s eldest son Arthur joined his father at West Coast Shipbuilders in 1941 after completing his Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of British Columbia and after the Navy rejected him for military service during the war because of vision problems.
At the end of hostilities, West Coast Shipbuilders built fuel barges for the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories and other ships, such as the ferry “Anscomb” for the service on Kootenay Lake. West Coast Shipbuilders ceased operations in 1948.
The Start of Allied
It was Arthur's idea to lease a corner of West Coast's property and to create Allied Builders Ltd., as it was then called. The firm was renamed to Allied Shipbuilders Ltd. in 1961.
Why create a new shipyard after the one that was there had just shut down for lack of business? Simple: Arthur McLaren wanted to build ships. As a startup, the new firm had low overhead, was nimble, and was in a position to build steel workboats, which on the BC coast before World War II were primarily constructed from wood.
“My father, W.D., gave me some good advice about the business of shipbuilding, in typical Scots fashion. He said the first thing to do was find a lawyer... second, an accountant... and third, a bank," according to Arthur. W.D. then gave his son the names of people in those businesses to use. Today, 63 years later, Allied continues to use the same law firm, accountant, and bank.
Arthur's own sons became involved in the business from an early age. All three got their beginnings at the bottom. Jim, before he turned 16, aided the company in removing a ferry from Okanagan Lake at Kelowna and bringing it to the coast for re-assembly. Doug worked on vessel repairs for a couple of summers until he got out of high school, soon after obtaining a diploma in electrical engineering and completing his electrician’s apprenticeship. Malcolm, the company’s outgoing president, worked as a welder before completing post-secondary education.
Arthur McLaren suffered a stroke in 1990 which reduced his day-to-day involvement in the business. He died on February 19, 1999. His sons, James, Douglas and Malcolm, who had become increasingly involved in managing the company since the late 1970’s, continued to operate the business.
Chuck Ko, P.Eng - Allied's New President
For 63 years, Allied Shipbuilders Ltd. had always been owned entirely by the McLaren family. On February 1st, 2012, Chuck Ko, a 30-year employee of Allied Shipbuilders, took over the share of the company owned by Jim and Malcolm McLaren, and joined Douglas McLaren as co-owner of the firm.
Chuck was hired by Arthur McLaren, P.Eng in 1980. Arthur, as a ship designer and builder, found Chuck to be an excellent understudy. A Registered Professional Engineer in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and a Member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, Chuck has progressed through the company from Design Draftsman to Technical Manager, to Vice-President of Operations, and now into his new role as President of Allied Shipbuilders.
Chuck Ko has proven to excel in leading ship construction and refit projects. In the last four years alone, he successfully managed projects valued in excess of $50 million on behalf of Allied Shipbuilders.
Shipbuilding at Allied
Initially, Allied Shipbuilders’ primary business was building new steel tugs and barges. The company's first vessels, which are numbered from #1 with the count now up to #259, were small steel tugs for the forest industry. The company progressively took on larger and larger projects, and by the 1960’s it was one of the principal medium-sized shipbuilding firms in BC, building self-dumping log barges, vehicle ferries and offshore supply vessels. Typically, Allied built reasonably complex ships rather than simple barges.
The company moved to its current location in North Vancouver in 1967 after Arthur felt he needed facilities to construct larger vessels that were being built at the time, and the owner of the False Creek land was pressuring his firm to leave. The new site near the Second Narrows Crossing was flat, with little on it that needed removal, and with a large hole dredged in the bottom of the harbour right beside the property, suitable for receiving new ships when they are launched.
From Shipbuilding to Ship Repair
In the mid-1980s, the shipbuilding business in Western Canada underwent a dramatic downturn. The fall of the price of crude oil, which resulted in the abrupt end of oil exploration in the Canadian Arctic and the general maturation of industrial expansion on the BC coast, both led to a greatly reduced demand for new domestic vessels.
Unlike many of Allied’s BC competitors that closed, Allied expanded the utility of its shipyard plant and equipment in order to pursue repair and conversion work on commercial vessels. In the early 1980s, Allied designed and built two floating drydocks which enabled the firm to take on significant repair work to balance the decline in domestic shipbuilding. The drydocks are designed to suit the majority of commercial and government vessels on the west coast.
Allied's operating strategy changed from being a shipbuilder to a ship repairer capable of shipbuilding. This strategy proved to be effective. The repair business provides a relatively consistent market, and the competitive region for Allied’s services ranges from Puget Sound to Alaska.Back To Start