It started with two boats used for hydroelectric projects then morphed into something completely different. John Turpin started Inlet Express with two employees in 2007 based in Prince Rupert’s beautiful Cow Bay.
The business began by providing transportation to BC Hydro, transferring crews and equipment servicing remote communities in isolated coastal areas in northwestern British Columbia during power outages. Turpin gradually built up his small fleet, the Inlet Provider and Rain Coast Explorer, to support more local business with reliable water transport service; including ocean sciences, environmental assessments, mining and forestry projects and eco-tourism.
His versatile boats can launch and recover scientific equipment from the ocean and take tourists on whale watching trips throughout the scenic northern waters.
Turpin then saw Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) on the horizon and changed course. Inlet Express has successfully won contracts with many LNG proponent companies and has grown to be one of the most highly regarded B.C. marine suppliers in the area.
Inlet has five permanent employees and hires temporary employees when large contracts increase demand, but there is room for expansion if the proposed Pacific Northwest liquefied natural gas project goes ahead on Lelu Island south of Prince Rupert.
Turpin is a supporter of the project, of which Malaysian owned Petronas is a majority owner. “There will be no shortage of work. An LNG plant would give a boost to Inlet Express and other businesses, including construction, service and the upstream gas drilling sectors.”
Turpin says one of the biggest challenges growing his business has been managing administrative paperwork, particularly related to vendor pre-qualifications and health and safety. He recommends outsourcing and getting help when needed.
Other advice to anyone planning to start a business is to be flexible and maintain a can-do attitude – something that has served him well as an entrepreneur.