By Mark Cardwell

It’s been 15 years since the Port Authority of Sept-Îles, like 17 other Port Authorities across Canada, assumed local operational control and responsibility of its facilities.

But to hear port spokesperson Patsy Keays tell it, the meaning and significance of that federal transfer on the economic and social development of the North Shore region has never been fully understood or appreciated by the local population.

“People get used to seeing the same people and facilities, so we thought our 15th anniversary this year was a good opportunity to remind and explain to people here who we are and what we do,” said Keays. To do that, the Port Authority has taken a number of initiatives aimed at raising its profile locally in 2014. One is a new local 15th anniversary logo, which Keays says “is a little different from the regular one and very colourful.”

The Port was also the main corporate sponsor for this year’s Vieux quai en fête from 10-13 July. “It was a great weekend,” Keays said about the 21st edition of the popular family-oriented, non-alcohol street festival, which features free games for kids and live music at the port. “The weather was good (and) several port employees volunteered.”

Another big celebratory event will be the port’s second annual Marine Week, which will held from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5.

According to Keays, more free public events and activities at the port are planned during two so-called Port Days, when several maritime-related local businesses and federal agencies such as the Canadian Coast Guard and the local Naval Reserve unit will set up public information stands and displays in tents.

The rowboat used by Montrealer Mylène Paquette on her 129-day solo trip across the Atlantic Ocean last summer – called the Hermel, which the port recently purchased for an undisclosed sum – will also go on display for the first time.

Visitors will also get a chance for a close-up look at the three cruise ships that are scheduled to be in port that week, and share what Keays “a cruise ship experience” by visiting the kiosks where vendors sell local crafts and foods to ship passengers.