'I think it's most unlikely anybody's going to pony up money for that.'

Consultant doubtful about Iqaluit port


A consultant who helped the Government of Nunavut create its transportation strategy is skeptical the City of Iqaluit can secure private-sector funding to build a port.

Christopher Wright, who runs the Mariport Group consulting firm in Digby, N.S., chuckled at the notion Iqaluit might find investors willing to cough up some of their own money for a port locked in ice eight months of the year.

"I think with the current turmoil in the financial markets, I think it's most unlikely anybody's going to pony up money for that," he said, referring to the sub-prime mortgage meltdown that has spooked investors. "The big problem is that it's a very expensive dock and it would be enormously costly to pay for the finance and operate it based on the amount of cargo going into Iqaluit."

The city, stung by an August decision by the federal government to upgrade an existing port at Nanisivik for the military, is looking for private investors to help fund a container port, which could cost as much as $100 million. The city has also struck a committee, including the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation, the territorial department of economic development and transportation, and Qulliq Energy Corporation to try to figure out ways to get a port built.

Anne Crawford, president of QEC, said one solution might be to piggyback the construction of a port onto the utility's proposed hydroelectric dam that would provide power for Iqaluit. She said Qulliq wouldn't invest directly in the project but might be able to share costs. QEC also backs the project because "we have large sealifts," Crawford said.

But she said Qulliq views a port as a potential business opportunity.

"Ports take a lot of energy," Crawford said. "When a boat pulls up to the dock they want to shut down their engines and connect to a land-based system … It would be a significant customer for us."

QEC is mulling Jayne's Inlet as a possible site for the hydro dam. Located on the south shore of the lower reaches of Frobisher Bay, Crawford said the inlet is located below a chain of islands that run through the middle of the bay and keep the lower part of the bay free of ice for most of the winter.

"If you built on the other side of those islands you would have eight or nine ice-free months," she said.

Crawford said it's also a logical site because the company needs a landing site to build a dam. But it would also require a long, and costly, road connection running around the head of Frobisher Bay.

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