The planned makeover and reopening of the intermodal Pointe-aux-Basques terminal in the Port of Sept-Îles got a big boost this summer from the governments of Canada and Quebec.

At a groundbreaking ceremony in the port on June 19, senior ministers from both governments announced they would each put up a third of the $20 million the terminal modernization project is expected to cost, matching the contribution of the Port of Sept-Îles.

Work on the terminal is expected to begin in early 2020 and take about a year.

The terminal was closed for repairs in October 2018 and has never reopened.

Improvements will include rebuilding the façade of the terminal, extending it 40 metres, adding docking equipment and improving intermodal infrastructures.

Port officials say the project can’t be completed fast enough.

Built in 1950 as strategic infrastructure for the development of mega mining and energy projects in Quebec and Labrador—notably Schefferville, Labrador City, Fermont and Churchill Falls—the Pointe-aux-Basques terminal is the main point of entry into the Port of Sept-Îles for goods going north and for people and goods heading to and from the many isolated villages in Quebec’s Lower North Shore region.

For many years the terminal’s main client has been Relais Nordik.  The company notably operates the Bella-Desgagnés, a self-unloading cargo and passenger ship that serves the Lower North Shore.

The closing of the Pointe-aux-Basques terminal has forced the ship to use the cruise ship terminal, a facility that not designed to handle containers and bulk cargo.

At the same time, several mining companies plan to use the Pointe-aux-Basques terminal to move supplies north to their operations in and around the Labrador Trough and to export iron ore and other materials to the outside world.

“The terminal’s strategic location and its intermodality are major assets for our port and our region,” says Port of Sept-Îles President and CEO Pierre Gagnon.

“With the growing iron market expected to generate upwards of 20 to 30 million tons of ore in the coming years, this project will allow the Pointe-aux-Basques Terminal to play a big role in the movement of supplies and as a transit point to meet the rising demand for short sea shipping for a growing range of goods.”

For his part, Carol Soucy, board chair of the Port of Sept-Îles, noted that shipping more goods into and out of the North Shore using maritime instead of road transport improves both the air quality and driving conditions in the region.

“We’d like to thank both the provincial and federal governments for their support,” Soucy said at the announcement ceremony in June.  “It shows a real awareness of the issues that are affecting our region.”