Victoria Machinery Depot

Victoria Machinery Depot

Victoria Machinery Depot Ltd. was a ship builder located in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

This was a historic metalworks and shipyard in Victoria, Canada. From the late 1850s on, with the Fraser Canyon and Cariboo Gold Rushes British Columbia (BC) was dependent upon Californian supplies and ships. To prevent United States domination of the British Colony, Governor James Douglas passed laws restricting US shipping. To encourage BC shipping a yard and ironworks was established—the Albion Iron Works was started by Joseph Spratt on May 4, 1863.

The name derives from the latin word Alba for white, itself a reference to the white cliffs of Dover or, more often, Scotland. British Columbia was known as New Albion for a time and hence the name of the iron works. The first yard sat on the south bank of Victoria's inner harbour on Bay Street, just before the Bay Street bridge at Point Ellice. The yard turned out boilers, engines, and pipes for early steamers. The hulls were made of wood on slips in the yard. Later the yard turned out ships, like the sternwheeler SS Mount Royal. Albion Iron Works went through several business changes and merged with Victoria Machinery Depot, taking the latter's name in 1888. It did essential war work in both world wars.

Later on the yard turned out several BC Ferries vessels. In 1965-1967 it also made the oil drilling platform SEDCO 135-F for exploration by Shell Canada in Hecate Strait. At the time of its construction SEDCO 135-F was the largest semi-submersible platform in the world and was the first platform constructed in British Columbia. The CAD$10 million rig rose 50 metres above the water in the docks at VMD (before submersion). After the 1967 launch and 3 years of exploration off the BC coast it was towed and worked at oil fields in New Zealand, the North Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. On June 3, 1979 the rig was drilling for PEMEX at the Ixtoc I site in the Gulf of Mexico and suffered a blowout that led to one of the largest single source oil spills in history. By June 12 the oil slick measured 180 km by 80 km. The leak was not capped until March 23, 1980 after which an estimated 3.5 million barrels of oil had already spread over the gulf. SEDCO 135-F was one of the last seagoing vessels built by VMD.

In business until the 1990s the company turned to pressure vessels and submarines, but the historic firm went under in the business contractions of the decade and was finally shut down in 1994.

The yards were one of several contractors to the Royal Canadian Navy for ship repair and maintenance.

Read more about Victoria Machinery Depot:  Ships Built, See Also

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