By Mark Cardwell

The port of Sept-Îles made history late last year when the first ore carrier of the Chinamax generation sailed from the facility on December 15 with the largest maritime load ever registered in North America – 302,264 tonnes of iron ore.

But by the end of July, four more of the sea giants have set sail from Sept-Îles, each of them carrying enough iron ore to build 20,000 cars or six bridges the size of Montreal’s Champlain Bridge. The five ships have also carried roughly 5 per cent of the port’s entire annual tonnage of roughly 30 MT.

“We are entering a new era in maritime transportation. Chinamax bulk carriers are the way of the future for large iron ore producers because of their operational efficiency and load capacity, which together, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the number and frequency of ships that anchor in the bay,” said port President and CEO Pierre Gagnon.  “And the advent of these massive new ships certainly justifies our multi-user wharf project.”

According to Gagnon, the new wharf will be the only infrastructure able to accommodate Chinamax ships in North America when it becomes operational later in the year. Until then, however, the giant vessels must anchor in the bay of Sept-Îles and wait for CSL-owned Panamax vessels capable of carrying up to 60,000 tonnes to transload iron ore into their holds using conveyors. “It has meant added costs and more time,” said Gagnon.  “But once the new wharf is ready, we’ll be docking these ships and filling them like any other vessel.”