Anchoring GNN Marine Services on Vancouver Island

April 4, 2013

By Ian Roberts

There is an un-credited quote that states “timing is everything – in business and in life”. If you’ve ever bought or sold a house, you’d probably agree. So would Marine Harvest Canada’s (MHC) Port Hardy Production Manager, Darren Ingersoll.

In February 2012, Darren was looking to replace a 12 person crew boat that shuttled crew to and from ocean-based salmon farm sites near Port Hardy, British Columbia.  MHC farms had been supplied by a company-owned vessel, but Darren was looking to outsource the service.

At the same time the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations (GNN) was looking for an anchor customer to help secure a new marine services and tourism business – GNN Marine Services.  

“In retrospect, the timing couldn’t have been better,” says GNN’s Economic Development Officer Conrad Browne.

GNN Marine Services

GNN Marine Services

A business relationship was not new to the company or Nations, as they have enjoyed an ongoing partnership agreement since 2000. A commitment of this agreement is to help support economic opportunities within GNN’s Traditional Territory.   

Conrad and Darren met to discuss the potential business to business relationship and decided to give it a three month trial beginning in the summer of 2012.

A few things were required first – most importantly a boat and skipper. So GNN Marine purchased “Gordies Girl”, a 28 foot, 12 seat crew boat. A total refit was required and was done locally at Progressive Diesel in Port McNeill. “GNN went over and above what is required for vessel comfort” adds Conrad, “but the final product was well worth it.”

At the same time this Coast Guard certified vessel was secured, the Nations began training several band members. Today there are two full-time, licensed operators.

Business operations and operator safety and conduct are overlooked by Angela Smith, a resident of Port Hardy.

“We began providing service to Marine Harvest in July of 2012,” says Angela, “and the boat is now busy four days a week shuttling crew and supplies to the salmon farms in the area.”  

The year-round service required by MHC has helped GNN expand their marine services business to include two boats and to further develop their eco-tourism business – Nakwakto Rapids Tours. The wildlife and cultural tour includes a run of Nakwakto Rapids – the tidal rapids peak at 30 km per hour – making it the world’s fastest navigable tidal surge according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

“It’s a win-win-win,” says Darren. “GNN Marine Services has a core customer and we have a solid, reliable and safe service that can also provide North Island communities with valuable marine services and tourism opportunities.

To read more about Nakwakto Rapids or to book a trip, you can visit

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