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Heavy Metal Marine is a Vancouver Island company with a lot of local experience and a wealth of resources to bring to projects on the West coast

By Kelly Gray

Brian Freethy and his business partner, Ashley Williams, enjoy a good challenge. The pair own and operate Victoria-based Heavy Metal Marine, a company they started right after finishing high school. The company, named after a small tug that Williams and his father had built, has grown its marine construction capabilities since starting in 2004 with the construction of a private pier near Sydney, B.C. Today, Heavy Metal Marine has become a Vancouver Island “go to” company for a full range of marine services and solutions, from wharfs and breakwaters to boardwalks and ferry terminals.

“Once we got out of school we just started building wharfs. One job led to another,” said Brian Freethy, remembering their first contract, a private pier in Brentwood Bay. Next, they won the tender on the Sooke Harbour boardwalk and from there it was a steady stream of projects and “A-list” customers.

Freethy suggested that much of their success comes from a solid group of experienced hands. He says that turnover in the company is low, allowing them to develop a broad base of experience among the 40 to 50 skilled tradespeople that form the core of the crews.

“We like to hire the best and then work to keep them,” he said.

Heavy Metal Marine also owns and operates all of its equipment. The list is impressive, with a compliment that includes spud barges, crawlers and truck cranes, tugs, vibro and diesel hammers, boom boats, barges and rock trucks, as well as highway tractors and low boys in addition to a pile of other tools and support equipment. The company also rents a slate of equipment to help others complete jobs. This is inclusive of down-hole drilling gear such as compressors, leads and tooling as well as qualified operators.

“We are constantly picking up new equipment to add to our capability with specialized gear. Our rental equipment has gone out as far as the eastern U.S. and we hope to grow this side of the business with an ever greater range of equipment available,” he said, adding that while they plan to stay close to home with the company’s projects, they will rent out tools to just about any destination. “We tend to rent the equipment and a qualified operator. Our customer supplies the crane and we supply the rest.”

Freethy says that while the company is focused on Vancouver Island, they have undertaken significant works on the mainland. For example, Heavy Metal undertook a project to construct a cofferdam at the Kamloops North Thompson Water Intake. He mentions that challenges can occur at any time, but proper planning and prep work has proven to be a strong factor in mitigating problems. Here he mentioned down-hole drilling for rock sockets.

“This can be very expensive, time consuming and risky. Tools break and costs rise with crews unable to get to work. For this reason few are doing these jobs. We have the capability and are growing this side of our business,” he said.

Another recent project that shows Heavy Metal’s skill and capability is the M.V. Coho ferry terminal. Located in downtown Victoria across the street from the Hotel Grand Pacific, the terminal was completed on a tight time line. According to Freethy, the company drilled over 100 piles into five meters of rock. At its peak, the project saw 70 tradesmen on site. Despite the complexities of the job, Heavy Metal Marine completed the work on time.

Safety is all part of the plan. Heavy Metal Marine crews start the day with a “toolbox” meeting on the job site to determine risks and remediation. The company is COR safety certified and offers in-house training and then follows up on a daily basis at the morning meetings where crews discuss hazards. According to Freethy, crews work on the “buddy” system, where people look out for one another and discuss best practices.

“We provide all the necessary gear and take safety very seriously. As a result, we have established a very good record in the industry and we plan to maintain this distinction,” he said.

“Once we have done our preplan preparation and have everything in place, we are known as a company that gets things done on time and on budget,” he said, adding that they are aggressive on execution.

“We have a large depth of resources and we bring a lot to a project. If you can dream it, we can build it,” he said, concluding that for them success comes from maintaining long-term relationships and living up to commitments.

“We are a Vancouver Island company run by people from Vancouver Island. We understand the challenges of the area. We are committed to the environment and we are committed to safety. Over the years, our reputation has been our best calling card. As we move forward and grow with new and exciting challenges, these positive aspects of our company will not change.” 

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.