Seaspan’s Vancouver drydock embraces welding automation technology to revolutionize manufacturing processes

October 23, 2023

Novarc Technologies

Seaspan’s Vancouver drydock is strategically located on the west coast of North America, just north of the Canada-US border. The shipyard provides a full range of quality repair services and understands the importance of delivering ships on time and on budget. Facilities include two Lloyds-registered floating dry docks and berthing space, a heavy machine shop with two 40-ton overhead cranes and lathes capable of machining shafts up to 18 meters (50 ft). The need to be more efficient, to complete projects quickly and at lower cost, is particularly important in the shipbuilding industry. In addition, new regulations imposed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have resulted in many new system installations that will require implementation over the next five to 10 years. Many of these systems are related to environmental issues, with Vancouver Drydock’s most recent project, the completion of the ballast water treatment system upgrade, being a prime example. Seaspan recently installed a Novarc SWR to help complete the ballast water treatment system at their dry dock in Vancouver. While the job itself was a new type of retrofit project for Seaspan’s Vancouver dry dock, according to Seaspan, the Novarc welding automation technology used in the installation process was even more exciting and a ground-breaking first for the shipyard.

The ballast water treatment system was installed with the assistance of Novarc’s SWR. For Vancouver Drydock, automation solutions like Novarc’s reel welding robot play a key role in getting projects done faster and at a lower cost. While some shipyards are slow to grasp new technologies, Seaspan knew it was embracing a technology that had the potential to give the company a significant leading edge in an increasingly competitive market.

The Novarc solution

Seaspan’s Vancouver Drydock was looking for technology that offered both productivity and quality improvements for pipe production when they came across Novarc’s Spool Welding Robot (SWR). With no programming knowledge required, the Collaborative Spool Welding Robot works with a human operator to automatically weld from root to cap without the need to shut down the arc, and delivers consistent, high-quality welds every time.

“We looked at a few other options, but they were very small improvements to current technology. The Novarc product offered a complete next step,” says Paul Hebson, Vice President and General Manager at Vancouver Drydock.

The company’s current water treatment system project involves welding and installing various pipe reels (about 80-90) and ship installations. With Novarc’s SWR, welders at Vancouver Drydock are able to generate pipe joints in about 40 minutes on average; a job that took four and a half hours.

The bottom row

By implementing Novarc’s coil welding robot, Vancouver Drydock was able to increase its productivity by over 400% using SWR and achieve consistent quality X-ray welds every time.

Performance improvements

“In terms of performance improvements, in other areas we were looking at the traditional 15-20 percent improvement, whereas Novarc’s solution is several hundred percent improvement,” Hebson says.

By implementing Novarc’s Spool Welding Robot (SWR), Vancouver Drydock was able to shorten their project timelines and not only reduce their production costs, but also save their customers money. “We compete and win work in three ways: price, quality and time. For our customers, daily service costs are tens of thousands of dollars per day, so saving two to three days is a huge return,” says Hebson.

About Novarc Technologies

Novarc Technologies is a full robotics company specializing in the design and manufacture of cobots and AI-based machine vision solutions for autonomous welding. Novarc’s spool welding robot (SWR) is the world’s first of its kind in pipe welding applications. As a proven pioneer in the field, the Novarc team is dedicated to solving challenging welding automation problems that improve customers’ bottom line. Unlike other welding solutions, Novarc’s flexible technology is able to weld a variety of joints, with fewer space constraints, where operators interactively make adjustments during welding without the need for pre-programming. Visit us at

See a live demo of the SWR Welding Robot (SWR)

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