On April 19, Groupe Desgagnés and its subsidiary Relais Nordik christened the M/V Bella Desgagnés at a ceremony conducted at Port of Sept-Îles. The Bella Desgagnés is a new vessel specially designed for and dedicated to service Anticosti Island and the Lower North Shore of the St. Lawrence River.

This event was held in the presence of many guests and dignitaries including Lorraine Richard, MP for Duplessis and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Transport. The christening took place after a familiarization tour during which the ship stopped in all ports it will be serving, allowing the region’s residents and users to be the first to discover it. Louis-Marie Beaulieu, President and CEO of Groupe Desgagnés, said he was “very excited at the idea that in addition to having visited the ship, residents will soon be able to experience it fully and appreciate its qualities and added value.”

Julie Boulet, MNA of Laviolette and former Minister of Transport of the Government of Quebec, had the honor to proceed, as godmother, to name the ship. The vessel had previously been blessed by Father Germain Gagnon, vicar of Saint-Joseph church and chaplain of the Mariners’ House of Sept-Îles.

The Bella Desgagnés can comfortably accommodate 381 passengers with its 459 aircraft-type seats, which offer greater incline and footrests. It also offers a total of 160 berths in 63 cabins ranging from 10.5 to 16 m2, all with private facilities, and of which two 24-square-metre cabins are suitable for passengers with reduced mobility. It has a 112-seat cafeteria and an 88-seat dining room. It can carry 125 containers and is equipped with a crane offering a lifting capacity of 40 mt with a boom 35 meters long.

Mr. Beaulieu declared that “Our users’ safety, comfort and the quality of their stay on board were our main concerns. That is why we chose to add components that were not required by the Government of Quebec, such as retractable fins stabilizing the ship in bad weather; an entertainment system integrated into the seats for the distribution of films, television and radio stations; arcade games; a fitness center; a conference room; elevators for passengers and crew; a kennel; and much more.”

He also added that in terms of safety and maneuverability, the vessel’s structure was built according to the new SOLAS 2009 regulations and has also been reinforced to have superior capabilities for navigation in ice and is classed Ice 1AFS. All security, navigation, propulsion and mechanical systems are monitored by more than 3,700 operating indicators and alarms distributed throughout the ship, in addition to being equipped with a monitoring system of 50 cameras.

It is powered by two 2,000 kW azimuth thrusters, each powered by two electric motors of 2,200 kW each, and equipped with two 800 kW bow thrusters. It is also equipped with a dynamic positioning system (DPS) for greater ease to navigate and maneuver safely. The ship was built with the greatest concern for sustainable development. Its engines are IMO Tier II compliant, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the ship holds a “Green Passport”, certified by Lloyd’s Register, detailing the materials used in its construction.

The Bella Desgagnés’ design was completed in 2008, with the construction contract awarded to a shipyard in Croatia. However, while the vessel had originally been planned for delivery in 2010, significant delays occurred primarily as a result of serious financial difficulties that were encountered by the yard. In June of 2012, fearing that the vessel might be seized in bankruptcy proceedings, Groupe Desgagnés purchased the unfinished vessel, and had it towed to the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy, where it underwent a complete assessment of its condition and a review of options to complete it. The vessel was ultimately completed by Palumbo shipyard of Naples, and sailed for Halifax in March of this year.

The Bella Desgagnés required over 1.5 million hours of work, the development of nearly 6,000 separate drawings, more than 50 tonnes of paint and approximately 320 kilometres of electrical wires. It will replace the M/V Nordik Express which was originally built in 1974, and which is scheduled to be retired in the fall of 2013.

Relais Nordik Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Groupe Desgagnés Inc. transporting passengers, general cargo and vehicles from the main terminals of Rimouski, Sept-Îles, Havre-Saint-Pierre and Natashquan, and to the eight ports of the communities it serves, i.e. Port-Menier, Kegaska, La Romaine, Harrington Harbour, Tête-à-la-Baleine, La Tabatière, Saint-Augustin and Blanc-Sablon.

Groupe Desgagnés Inc., headquartered in Quebec City, specializes in marine transportation of liquid bulk, general cargo, dry bulk and passengers. Its activities also include ship repair as well as the rental and operation of heavy machinery. The company owns and operates a fleet of 18 ships that ply the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence network, Eastern Canada and the United States and all the seas of the world. Privately owned Groupe Desgagnés’ enjoys annual revenues of over $230 million.