A sheet metal company in Port Coquitlam is about to become the centre of the Canadian military's attention over the next three years.
Wesgar, one of the largest providers of sheet metal in B.C., in partnership with Weatherhaven, a provider of portable shelters, camps and systems around the world, is part of the federal government's $60-million defence procurement to aid Canadian Forces around the world.
The two Canadian companies are responsible for the production of 400 cuttingedge portable shelters that will act as "pop up cities" for Canadian Forces abroad.
The portable units are the size of an average shipping container, approximately eight feet wide, eight feet high and 20 feet long, and can be easily transported on the backs of trucks or railway cars.
"They're designed so that when you get to a location, you can take the unit off the truck and have it operate independently," said Ray Castelli, CEO of Weatherhaven, in an interview with The NOW.
Not only will they include kitchen supplies and medical equipment, but they can be outfitted into more than 30 configurations such as command and communication centres, and radar satellite ground stations.
"When they deploy on a peacekeeping mission or there is a disaster - they can build a camp around them [the units]," said Castelli.
"If they're trying to deal with something like the earthquake in Haiti, a flood in Manitoba or if it's some sort of rescue effort in the Arctic, they're able to bring these units to where they need to put the operation."
Each unit will have its own onboard mechanical rooms with power generators, fuel tanks, batteries and electrical and air conditioning systems.
This allows the unit to be fully operational in any climate conditions, a feature no other military units have, according to Castelli.
Each unit varies in price, but can cost as much as $150,000, he added.
Weatherhaven has kept a majority of the production effort within the Lower Mainland, with parts mainly coming from Delta, Burnaby, Vancouver, Surrey and Coquitlam.
Ultimately, Wesgar is responsible for assembling the final product, from helping install the pieces of sheet metal that go inside the container to managing all the final installations and painting, while Weatherhaven will deliver the units following their completion.
Construction is currently underway at the purpose-built facility on Davies Avenue in PoCo, as the first unit rolled off the line Thursday.
"This production location is a newly established facility, designed specifically to manufacture this product," said Wesgar CEO Keith Day in a press release.
"This project proves again that world class technology is being designed and built in British Columbia, and we're happy to be a part of that."
Wesgar aims to produce one unit per day for the next three years.
While it is only a threeyear contract, many of the companies involved hope the state-of-the-art "Made in B.C." units will continue to be produced for countries around the world.
The procurement is part of a Department of National Defence program to replace 30-year-old technology.