Tag Archives: dry docks

Reimagining and Rebuilding the Marine Industry on the Great Lakes: Shaun Padulo ‘07 

Through creativity, innovation and strategic planning, Shaun and his team at Heddle Shipyards are growing and revitalizing shipyards on the Great Lakes. 

When it comes to the marine industry, Shaun Padulo ’07 is no stranger and already has a great deal of experience under his belt. Working in and around ships has long been a passion of Shaun’s. He spent his summers in Grade 11 and 12 working as a deckhand on tugboats sailing the Great Lakes. He continued working his way up during his university years, moving to the front office of McKeil Marine Limited in Fleet Operations between 2003 and 2012.   

Prior to joining Heddle Shipyards in 2017, Shaun spent five years in the marine and offshore contracting sectors. He lived and worked in the Netherlands, working for the Dutch firms Dockwise Shipping B.V. and Boskalis Offshore B.V. While at Dockwise, Shaun honed his skills and gained experience in logistical management and transportation and installation of offshore production structures. He then moved to Houston, Texas and, working for Boskalis Offshore B.V., he focused on offshore installation projects, decommissioning projects, and subsea inspection, repair and maintenance projects. 

Since Shaun joined Heddle Shipyards, the company has seen tremendous growth. He assumed the role of President, a position he currently holds, in 2018. Heddle Shipyards is the largest Canadian ship repair and construction company on the Great Lakes, which are key arteries for the shipping of grain and other important resources destined for other parts of Canada and the world. In the past three years, they have tripled in size, with shipyards in Hamilton, Port Weller in St. Catharines and Thunder Bay. In November 2020, Heddle made headlines with the announcement of a new agreement between Heddle Shipyards in Ontario and Seaspan in Vancouver. The agreement will bring new jobs to the Hamilton, St. Catharines and Thunder Bay shipyards and will create ‘tens of millions of dollars in economic activity in Ontario.’1  In addition, Heddle won a major $12M Coastguard project that will bring additional people onboard and provide long-term employment at the Port Weller Dry Docks. When Heddle took over the Port Weller Dry Docks in 2017, it was a shadow of its former self. After three years of extensive capital expenditures for repairs and reimagining the shipyard, while at the same time completing over twenty successful projects, the Port Weller Dry Docks has a bright future ahead. As Shaun says, “It isn’t a matter of if we will build vessels again in Port Weller, it is a matter of when.”   

Shaun credits the unique leadership team at Heddle for its growth and success. A progressive, dynamic and diverse group comprised of veterans and young professionals, they are invested in comprehensive maritime policies and procedures and skill development, including virtual reality training, 3-D mapping and robotics. In order to mitigate or avoid traditional boom-and-bust cycles, the company has focused on multi-year projects and working with the government on long-term recurring projects. This includes work with commercial operators whose ships move grain and other resources up and down the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Canadian Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Navy. While the current pandemic has certainly had its challenges for large shipyards, Shaun is proud to note that Heddle has remained fully operational throughout, investing significant resources on health and safety measures for its employees.  

The company, which was founded in 1987, has become the largest operator of shipyards in Canada. The partnership of entrepreneurs, Rick Heddle and Blair McKeil were instrumental in the early expansion and vision. As philanthropists themselves, they laid the groundwork for much of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program. The company offers a matched gift program encouraging employees to volunteer their time in addition to donating funds to charitable activities. Heddle is also committed to helping fund charitable projects related to education, the environment, the military and the communities where Heddle has facilities. As an example, Shaun notes that Heddle proudly sponsors SWIM DRINK FISH, a non-profit organization that focuses on connecting people with the tools to safeguard local waters as ‘everyone has a right to swimmable, drinkable, fishable water.’2   

Shaun attended Ridley from 2002–2007 and is an alumnus of the University of British Columbia, McMaster University and Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam. He holds a Master of Science in Maritime Economics and Logistics.   

When Shaun reflects back on his five years at Ridley, he feels that the foundational skills he learned — skills like respect, excellence, service, and professionalism — are ones that he uses every day. He has many fond memories of the teachers and coaches, in particular Mr. Filion, Commanding Officer of the Cadet Corps and Mr. Milligan, his Grade 8 form teacher. As Mr. Filion remembers, ‘Shaun was a great student, involved in so many aspects of school life — football, hockey, rugby and cadets.  He was team captain for football and rugby and Regimental Sergeant Major in the Cadet Corps during his senior year.’ Shaun’s best friends are ones that were created during his time at Ridley and many of his business relationships can be linked back to his Ridley connections. He is an active alumnus and volunteer, serving on the Board of Governors Finance, Audit and Human Resource committee since September 2020. Just prior to the pandemic and lockdowns, Shaun was the guest speaker at the Cadet Mess Dinner in January 2020, where he told students to ‘never stop dreaming and to reach for the stars.’   

Looking to the future, Shaun is excited that Heddle is focused on future growth, and continued revitalization of shipyards with the vision to build large ships again in Ontario. We look forward to following the growth and development of shipbuilding right here in our own backyard. 

1 The Hamilton Spectator, November 12, 2020, article by Kate McCullough.

2 SWIM DRINK FISH, website, https://www.swimdrinkfish.ca/.


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from the Spring 2022 issue.