By Keith Norbury
Churchill Home Building Centre put in a big order for about $1 million of stock early this spring in anticipation of a good year, said Dale De Meulles, a lifelong resident of the remote Manitoba town who co-owns the store with his wife Rhoda.
Buoying his optimism were a flood of inquiries from customers in even more remote communities in Nunavut to buy much of that stock. The good news was that the store received its stock before severe flooding in late May wiped out sections of the Hudson Bay Railway, the sole land-link connecting Churchill with the rest of the continent. The bad news is none of those inquiries from Nunavut turned into orders. As Rhoda De Meulles explained, the northern customers didn’t bother sending barges to Churchill because the railway wouldn’t be able to deliver their other supplies. Instead, those Nunavut communities turned to shippers in Montreal.
Year to date St. Lawrence Seaway cargo volumes to date are ahead of equivalent 2016 numbers by 10 per cent, as the shipping season enters its busiest final months. According to The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, total cargo tonnage from March 20 to October 31 reached 28.7 million metric tonnes – 2.5 million metric tonnes more compared to the same period in 2016.
By Alan M. Field
With the completion of the fourth round of talks to modernize the North American Free Association in late October, the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico are hoping to finish the entire series of seven rounds by the end of 2017. Whether or not the renegotiation process drags on for an additional few months in 2018, it’s clear that the net result will mark a turning point in the relationship between Canada and its North American trading partners. But what kind of turning point, and to what effect? What impact will the NAFTA renegotiation process have on the Canadian economy – and on the trading patterns and supply chains of Canada’s exporters and importers?
By Keith Norbury
A fabrication facility to build gravity-based structures for offshore wind power proposed for the port of Corner Brook, N.L., would “definitely increase activity at the port,” the port’s business development manager, Nora Fever, said in a recent interview. While she didn’t have any details about the size and scale of the proposed facility, Ms. Fever said the port would have to expand its infrastructure to accommodate it, which “definitely has potential to create several hundred jobs for this area.”
St. John’s based Beothuk Energy has identified Corner Brook as a feasible site for such a facility, which would be built at Brake’s Cove, just east of the existing Corner Brook dock, as part of a $1 billion initiative that also includes a demonstration wind farm project for St. George’s Bay, according to recent local news reports. Kirby Mercer, Beothuk’s CEO, told the local Rotary Club this summer that the manufacturing facility would create at least 600 jobs in the Corner Brook area alone, the city’s Western Star newspaper reported at the time.
Ms. Fever confirmed that the proposed facility would build “gravity-based structures” for offshore wind turbines. Those structures would sit on the seabed to support the turbines in offshore wind farms in the waters around Newfoundland. Handling these structures, and the materials required to build them, would necessitate expansion of the port. For example, it would require infilling of Brake’s Cove, which is to the east of the existing dock. “We would use existing infrastructure to some degree but most of the project activity would be at an expanded area of the port,” Ms. Fever said. That existing infrastructure includes a fixed-pedestal crane that the port corporation obtained new in 2008. The 53-tonne capacity machine is a multi-use crane that handles containers and the occasional shipment of breakbulk or project cargo. However, such project uses have been infrequent. The most recent consisted of large pipes for penstocks at the Deer Lake power plant about 50 kilometres away.
The port also has a ro-ro ramp, 28,000 square metres of container storage or laydown area, and a large industrial building that can be leased. Corner Brook, with a metropolitan population of about 32,000, is the largest city in western Newfoundland. It is on a narrow, well-sheltered fjord with 100 metres of water in the middle of the bay and 10 metres at dockside, Ms. Fever said. The berth extends 362 metres, long enough to accommodate the Queen Mary II when it visited. Open year-round, with occasional ice-breaker services, the port is situated at the end of Humber Arm, 35 kilometres inland from the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Corner Brook Port Corporation has only four employees at present. However, Ms. Fever said that would likely increase should the expansion project go ahead, although she didn’t have details about that. “It would depend on the setup of the project, who the partners are, and those kind of things. It’s very early stages for this,” Ms. Fever said.
Beothuk is part of a corporate partnership that includes Denmark’s Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. According to a posting on the latter’s website, Beothuk will lead development of the 180-megawatt St. George’s Bay project “until a power purchase agreement has been obtained.” After that, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners will lead the project to its financial close “and through the construction phase in cooperation with Beothuk Energy.’
In mid August, the provincial government said it was meeting with the project proponents “on a regular basis to discuss the potential of its wind project for Newfoundland and Labrador.” That was according to a prepared statement, attributed to Siobhan Coady, the province’s Natural Resources minister. “The project is in its early stages and we continue to discuss,” the statement added.
The mayors of Corner Brook and the nearby municipalities of Burgeo, Deer Lake, Stephenville, and Port aux Basques have also met with the joint venture proponents and port officials. The mayors issued a news release in August saying “it is essential to work with the provincial government to secure a power purchase agreement for this project to ensure the province has first-player advantage, as it is unlikely that a second fabrication facility will be constructed in Atlantic Canada,” the Western Star reported at the time.
Ms. Fever said the port is close to other potential offshore wind sites in Atlantic Canada, which she called “a big plus.” She added that the province has a lot of expertise and experience in the offshore oil and gas industry that she expects could be translated — “especially when you’re talking about gravity-based structures” — to the offshore wind sector. “And we’ve got several post secondary institutions here in Corner Brook for training and for specialized programming if necessary,” Ms. Fever said. “So certainly that positions us very well for this project.”
Glen Sullivan, co-owner of Atlantic Hydraulic and Machine Limited, attended a few information sessions on Beothuk’s proposal in recent years, and told Canadian Sailings that his company, which fabricates maritime equipment, could perform maintenance and other support work at the windmill plant. He also expects the wind facility would bring in workers from elsewhere in the province and provide spinoff benefits for hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.
“We’re a very small community,” Mr. Sullivan said. “So any new work that comes into this community would have to benefit the community. There is nowhere (else) to get any service or any suppliers or anything else.” He remains optimistic that the wind project will go ahead, although he noted that it has been planned for a few years now. “So as time goes on, I’m not sure if it’s going to happen or not,” Mr. Sullivan said.
By R. Bruce Striegler
“Historically, the port of Prince Rupert has had two forest-based stuffing and reload operations in Prince Rupert,” the Port’s Brian Friesen, Manager, Trade Development, explains. “Both Tidal Transport and Quickload Logistics served regional mills – mills along the Highway 16 corridor – but in close enough proximity to Prince Rupert, that it made sense to truck forest products to Prince Rupert, stuff them into containers and then truck them to the terminal.” Beginning in 2007, CN Rail began operating a forest-products transload facility, 720 kilometres to the west, in the City of Prince George, and Friesen notes that a significant volume of forest products coming from Alberta and B.C. are stuffed there before they are shipped by rail to Prince Rupert.
The Montreal Port Authority (MPA) got a jumpstart on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union by signing an international cooperation agreement with the French ports system HAROPA at the beginning of September.
CETA, which came into force on September 21, covers almost all sectors and aspects of Canada-EU trade in order to eliminate or reduce barriers. A special event officially heralding the provisional application of CETA was held in the Port of Montreal that day before the media, dignitaries and distinguished guests. Among those in attendance were François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, Christine St-Pierre, Quebec’s Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie, Peteris Ustubs, Ambassador, EU representative to Canada, Steve Verheul, CETA Chief Negotiator, and Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the MPA.