By Mark Cardwell

Major repairs over the next three years to the quay used by the Canadian Coast Guard in Quebec City is forcing Port officials to consider alternative docking spaces for the dozens of cruise ships that visit the picturesque provincial capital annually. “It’s created a bit of a logistical challenge,” said the Director of Cruise Ship Operations at Port of Quebec, Nancy Houley. “We have had to juggle things around – but we’ll be ready.”

According to Houley, CCG informed the port late last year that it would be making repairs to much of the quay it rents from the port – and operates independently – in the spring of 2013. The work is expected to be completed by 2016. The CCG quay contains six of the roughly 30 docks that the port of Quebec owns in five sectors on the north shore of St. Lawrence River. The Port also owns two docks – 86 and 87 – that serve as the terminal for the Ultramar oil and gas refinery in Levis on the south shore. Three of the CCG docks – 93, 94 and 95, which are located directly below the city’s historic ramparts and old military fort, the Citadel – are regularly used by the Port to berth visiting cruise ships of more than 250 metres in length. They are also the Port’s preferred second and third docks when its dedicated cruise ship berth – Docks 21 and 22, which are connected to the Port’s cruise terminal – is occupied when two or more cruise ships are in port. That occurred on 15 days in 2012, which saw a record 117,000 passengers and more than 34,000 crew members visit the port on board 102 ships.

Houley said 95 ships are already booked for the 2013 sailing season, with a similar number of visitors forecast. However, with the Coast Guard’s docks unavailable for the next three years, she said the Port will use Dock 30 next to the Bunge grain terminal as its second cruise ship dock during the summer months. The Port, she added, is presently considering designs for a temporary terminal on the site, which has been used in past years to house visiting big-tent shows like the Cirque du Soleil and Cavalia. “It’s going to be a tent that won’t look like a tent,” Houley quipped. Passengers who get off ships there will board buses to visit the area – just like they do when they arrive at the CCG quay. Houley said she and other port officials informed their cruise ship customers about the new docking arrangements at the recent international cruise ship trade show in Miami.

According to a CCG spokesperson, sections of the quay it uses, which was built in the 1960s, are in need of repairs. “They have reached the end of their working lives,” Natalie Hilt wrote in an email. “Public Works and Government Services Canada is now finalizing plans and budgets in regards to the rebuilding of the quay.” She added that the work “will not affect CCG services in Quebec. “However, Hilt’s colleague, Natalie Letendre, told journalists with Quebec City’s Le Soleil newspaper that the work is already causing headaches for the federal agency, which uses the site to house navigational buoys on the St. Lawrence. Icebreakers and other federal ships like the CCGS Amundsen, which does research in Canada’s Arctic, are also frequent visitors to the Port of Quebec, where they take on supplies and materials. Public Works and Government Services Canada has stated that work on the next section should be completed in 2014 at a total estimated cost of $8 million. Technical drawings and specifications are being developed to repair other sections of the wharf.

The CCG quay project is the second major federal waterfront spending announcement in the Quebec City region in 2013. On February 1, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a $19-million contribution agreement under the Building Canada Fund to redevelop the ferry area in Lévis. Under this agreement, Ottawa, Quebec and Lévis will share the cost of redeveloping two wharves and transforming the city’s old ferry terminal into a welcome and interpretation centre. “Our goal is not only to create jobs and stimulate the local and regional economies but to help transform this urban setting into a vibrant, dynamic area for residents and tourists,” said Harper. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois boycotted the press conference.