Major investments by the Port of Sept-Îles and its partners in and around the multiuser dock at the Pointe-Noire sector are helping to speed up and improve loading operations at North America’s deepest dock and biggest bulk handling facility.

Work is nearing completion, for example, on a striking new office and workshop building made of 25 sea containers for port workers and stevedores who run operations at the multiuser dock 500 metres away.

The 40-foot containers are attached together to form a U shape, with offices over two floors on one side and a cafeteria, vestiary, washrooms and showers on the other.  An arched middle area with commercial garage doors will allow machinery and other equipment to be serviced indoors.

“It’s an original design concept, very maritime and industrial,” said Étienne Bouchard, civil engineering technician at the Port of Sept-Îles and the project manager.  “The containers are arranged like a puzzle, it’s not a linear construction.  Inside there are offices and hallways and common areas and windows like in a modern office building.”

According to Bouchard, the exterior will be finished by the end of November and the interior by mid December.  He expects workers with the Port and Logistec, which has the operational contract for the multiuser dock, will begin using the new facility before Christmas.

The new container building replaces the nearby clutch of four plywood halls-connected office/work trailers and a sanitation trailer that have been used by workers since 2012, when construction on the multiuser dock began.

Though the dock has been operational since 2018, when the galleried conveyor that carries iron ore concentrate to its two massive ship loaders from the Société ferroviare et portuaire de Pointe-Noire (SFP Pointe-Noire) stockyards 1,500 metres away went into operation, the trailers have remained.

“They were a temporary installation that no longer met our needs,” said Bouchard.  “This new building is much better suited to the needs of a busy, modern facility like our multiuser dock which offers 50 tonnes of annual capacity to the industry.”

In addition to handling a record number of ships and iron ore in 2020, the multiuser dock’s renown as a world-class facility grew in late September when it loaded nearly 200,000 tons of iron ore from three different mining companies onboard a single ship, the Pacific South.

The ship took on iron ore from Tacora Resources (80k tons), Tata Steel (79k tons) and IOC (39k tons) and carried it to ports in England and Holland.

“It’s a testament to the flexibility and capability offered to our mining clients who want to share freight costs and benefit from the economy of scale of large bulk carriers at our multiuser dock,” said Pierre Gagnon, President and CEO of the Port of Sept-Îles.

Those abilities will improve, he added, once the $180 million worth of upgrades and investments being done by SFP Pointe-Noire in the Pointe-Noire sector are finished by next year with a complete rehabilitation of the stockyard area.

In addition to the galleried conveyor to the multiuser dock, those improvements include a new $30-million electrical station and distribution network and a $20-million doubling of the transport capacity of the Quebec government-owned railway that services the port and mining company partners.

“Those massive investments will help to speed up loading at the multiuser dock and increase the operational capacity of this unique, state-of-the-art multiuser complex, combined with SFP Pointe-Noire ground facilities,” said Gagnon.  “The future of these facilities has never looked brighter.”