2022 Marks Our 75th Anniversary
This is our story.
We’re proud of our long history and connection to the community. Our story really begins in 1940 at the start of the second world war…
When Germany invaded Norway in 1940, Norway had over 1,000 ships at sea which were ordered to go to a “British or an allied port”. During the spring and summer of 1940, seven factory ships and 22 or 23 whale catchers with upwards of 2,000 men on board arrived in Halifax. These whaling ships were converted into patrol vessels and mine sweepers for the Royal Norwegian Navy.
After conversion, the ships needed less men – they couldn’t go home, they couldn’t come ashore and they weren’t needed at sea. On September 2nd 1940, the Norwegians moved to Lunenburg and were housed in the curling rink while Norwegian authorities built and paid for a camp where the unemployed whalers would live under Norwegian military control. They did a lot of the work themselves since they had carpenters, pipefitters and other tradesmen in their whaling crews.
Camp Norway was officially opened on Friday, Nov 29th, 1940, and consisted of a barracks to house about 800 men located on a two-acre site on the south side of the town. Later, a mess hall, two storage buildings, a garage and a carpentry shop were added. The camp was primarily a Royal Norwegian Navy training depot for seamen and whalers who were being taken into the navy. The original buildings still exist and the metal sign over the main gate still proclaims it to be Camp Norway.
On December 5th 1946, the War Assets Corporation accepted a bid by 7 men to purchase the land at 81 Tannery Road, Lunenburg, in the name of the Atlantic Bridge Company Limited.
On February 2nd 1947, Andrew Eisenhauer and John Meisner Sr opened the doors of the Atlantic Bridge Company for the first time. Strangely, the Atlantic Bridge Company never did build a bridge! The first customer was Captain Louis Kennedy of Conquerall Bank. He wanted diesel engines in his sailing ship the City of New York. Some of the first projects were selling materials from Camp Norway and buying, selling, and repairing fishing boats. Next came wharf building – a big demand because wharf building had stopped during the war.
In 1954 business really took off when they started mechanical contracting. This included work at the Ernest Hermon US Airforce Base in Stephenville, Newfoundland.
In 1956, ABCO experimented with fiberglass-reinforced plastics to use in the food industries. They found a big demand for this in other areas. The first fiberglass fishing boat in Eastern Canada was built in 1962 – it was a Cape Islander and is now at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. This company is now called RPS Composites, located in Mahone Bay.
By the late 1950’s, the company was being recognized as a pioneer in the use of aluminum and stainless steel in food processing equipment. ABCO had designed a a potato chip plant for Acadia Foods near Kentville, NS. And was manufacturing and installing a wide range of equipment for frozen foods and food processing in the province.
Atlantic Shipbuilding was another division of Atlantic Bridge. They bought and operated the oldest dory-building business in Lunenburg, building over 20 scallop draggers that were 90 to 120’ long. The first was the Elizabeth Ann built for Captain Doug Mosher, launched on October 27th, 1962.
In 1963, arrangements were made to purchase a property belonging to the Hugh Anderson Family, located on Montague Street in Lunenburg at the head of the Government Wharf. The old house was torn down and, in 1964, a new two-story building was erected in its place – the upper floor was used for an office and an electronics shop, and the lower level housed a machine shop and welding shop.
By the early ‘60s, ABCO was the largest supplier of custom-designed and fabricated process equipment to the fishing industry. They had pioneered the use of aluminum and stainless steel in food processing equipment and its manufactured products were supplemented with many agency items, enabling it to offer a complete service to the industry. In 1964 they were one of the major suppliers of specially designed equipment for the production lines of the multi-million dollar National Sea Products processing plant (now Highliner Foods) in Lunenburg.
At this time in history, ABCO had made a name for themselves because they were in step with tomorrow. In conjunction with their advancements in food and fish industries, they had developed Fiberglass products for both marine and industrial use in Nova Scotia. They had built wharves and breakwaters, working with some of the largest contractors on the continent, including the installation of the Goose Bay end of the Bell Telephone radio relay link.
ABCO Properties was established in1964. Led by Martin Eisenhauer, this division developed Industrial Parks and office buildings. Most notable is the Atlantic Acres Industrial Park in Bedford. Atlantic Bridge had offices in the Atlantic Acres Industrial Park for a consulting engineering company that designed fish and other food-processing plants.
In 1965, the people of Lunenburg County breathed a sigh of relief when ABCO purchased the Industrial Shipping Company Limited of Nova Scotia (ISC), a company that produced plywood boats in its Mahone Bay factory. The name was changed to Paceship Yachts and they quickly shifted to building boats from a then-new material, fiberglass – one of the earliest builders of fiberglass small powerboats and sailboats. The increased production of internationally-known fiberglass pleasure craft by skilled Nova Scotia craftsmen meant up to 200 new jobs for the community.
Arrangements were made to lease the eastern wharf of Acadian Supplies Co. Ltd. where ships under repair were docked. In 1966 the company purchased the Acadian Supplies Co. Ltd. and its property from Adams & Knickle and established a store and stockroom in the building on Montague Street. A welding shop was established in the old coal shed – and a diesel repair shop and woodworking shop, in the main Acadian Supplies waterfront building.
The eastern wharf on the old Acadian Supplies property was completely rebuilt and – in 1967 – the western wharf (which had practically fallen into the Harbour) was replaced with a new, strong wharf.
In 1969, the Atlantic Bridge Company purchased Acadia Gas Engines, a company that made marine engines since 1908. Complete with a foundry, the company was renamed ABCO-Acadia and they continued to make propellers and other boat equipment. They also made fishing nets for the offshore fleet of Eastern Canada.
The Atlantic Trawler, built with a 37 foot fishing boat hull. This boat design was ahead of its time and became quite popular years later.
This photo shows two of the staples of fabrication in the 1970s – air unloaders and fish holding tanks. The photo shows the cyclone separator positioned over the water trap tank and discharge conveyor. A 75 hp motor (electric or diesel) powered the fan to produce the vacuum. Of aluminum construction, they had a telescopic gantry to account for the rise and fall of the tides.
Hundreds of holding tanks were made for plants in eastern Canada. They were normally fed by overhead conveyor and discharged into a flume which transported fish to the processing room. They were filled with water and ice to help preserve the fish as they waited for processing. They were basically a surge capacity for when the draggers came in with full loads. The welder is welding up a tank door. They had to be straight; as leakage was often an issue until a soft durometer durable neoprene rubber was used.
After the fisheries downturn in the early 80’s, many of the Atlantic Bridge divisions were closed or sold. The ABCO-Acadia waterfront property became the property of the Town of Bridgewater and is now Shipyards Landing. ABCO Industries Limited took over the Fabrication and Machine Shop.
In 1994, the steel shop is expanded.
In the photo below, taken in 2008, you can see the addition, connecting all buildings into one plant.
Some of the milestone events that have happened in the last decade or so are:
February 2011 – ABCO Industries Ltd wins the bid to build two 56 ft (17m) aluminum vessels for the Atlantic Pilotage Authority.
July 2013 – the CCGS S. Dudka, a fishery protection vessel is built by ABCO for the Canadian Coast Guard.
2018 New ownership – ABCO Industries Ltd is purchased by the Huskilson family. They are proud to continue the traditional values of this long-established company – to provide quality, value and innovation to their customers – and build trust through their relationships both locally and globally.
October 2018 – ABCO is awarded the contract for the design and construction of a 12-metre landing craft for the Royal Canadian Navy’s Harry DeWolf-class Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS). The landing craft is used by the navy to deploy vehicles — all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles or trucks — from the ship’s vehicle bay.
November 2020 – ABCO partners with XOCEAN to develop Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USV), designing and manufacturing the hull for the XO-G2 USV.
February 2nd 2022 marks the 75th anniversary of ABCO Industries Inc.
ABCO is somewhat of a hidden gem. There is a lot of expertise here – relationships with government research institutions, partnerships with pioneers in ocean technology and a team of people who are dedicated to their work. ABCO is in the process of becoming a global leader in advanced manufacturing and are committed to adopting more digital technologies in the workplace in order to remain competitive.