Today the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) officially designated the Halifax Shipyard’s Graving Dock as a National Historic Civil Engineering Site. Now owned by Irving Shipbuilding, the large dry dock was constructed in the 1880s for shipbuilding and repairs.
It has functioned during two World Wars and is still serving the industry today. According to the CSCE’s Program of Designation, the 173-metre-long and 24-metre-wide graving dock is a remarkable engineering accomplishment: at 125 years old it is still performing, essentially according to its original design. At the time of its construction, it was the largest dry dock on the Eastern Seaboard and could handle the world’s largest vessels.
The Graving Dock remains a critical part of Irving Shipbuilding’s operation to this day. Currently in dock is HMCS St. John’s, one of the Canadian Navy’s Halifax-Class frigates. Originally Irving-built at Saint John Shipbuilding, seven of these ships are now in the midst of a refit program. It can take anywhere from 12 – 18 months to complete each ship. The program began in 2011 and will continue into 2017.
It is fitting that the Graving Dock has been recognized for its significance from a historical civil engineering stand-point. It has survived the Halifax Explosion, several World Wars, and the inevitable advancement of the industry from wooden to steel ships as well as the exponential growth in vessel size and weight. It helped repair several thousand ships during World War II and now is the repair site for our Navy’s current combatant fleet, in the very shipyard that will construct the Navy’s new combatant fleet beginning in 2015.
The Ocean terminals At pier 20 are also Registered as a National Historic Civil Engineering Site