Iqaluit’s ship comes in as deepsea port opens
$85M port should lead to more efficient unloading, lower prices, faster services, officials say
With Iqaluit’s new deepsea port now open, Nunavut leaders say they hope to see lower prices for goods and faster shipping service across the territory.
The opening of the $84.9-million port Tuesday afternoon was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and barbecue put on by the Department of Economic Development and Transportation.
“It is a very exciting day, seeing a huge improvement for the marine infrastructure side: that’s a milestone for this territory,” said Nunavut Minister of Economic Development and Transportation David Akeeagok.
“We lack a lot of infrastructure and this is just the beginning, from my perspective, that we need to see more and more.”
The idea of building a deepsea port in Iqaluit goes back to the 1970s, when the federal government studied its feasibility, but those plans all fizzled out.
A proposal was put forward in 2005 with a prospective opening date of 2009, but that failed as well.
It wasn’t until 2015 that funding was secured when the federal government — led by then-prime minister Stephen Harper — and Nunavut agreed, respectively, to pay $63.7 million and $21.2 million of the total cost of the project.
An NEAS Arctic Sealift ship — the Qamutik — which had been anchored in the bay outside of Iqaluit since July 19, docked at the port Tuesday morning and began unloading goods. By late afternoon the ship had left the port.
In addition to a dock for container ships, the port includes a ramp that extends into the deep water to allow barges to be loaded and to unload onto the shore at all times of the day.
Before the port’s construction, goods had to be moved from ship to shore during high tide. It meant ships would stay anchored at sea for a week until they were fully unloaded.
“This port will reduce offload time from days to hours,” said Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone.
He was among the politicians who spoke at Tuesday’s ceremony, saying they hope that use of the port will lead to less reliance on slow and expensive barges, and by extension lower prices for goods.
“The investment in this port will produce direct savings for sealift companies, and I challenge our sealift providers to pass on as much of those cost savings to their customers as possible,” Lightstone said.
Iqaluit Mayor Solomon Awa echoed Lightstone’s points.
Awa also shared his optimism that Iqaluit residents won’t be the only ones who see reduced costs as a benefit of the port.
“No more waiting for high tide anymore,” Awa said.
“It will benefit the whole of Iqaluit and even, perhaps, the other communities as well.”
Marc-André Bougie, NEAS’s vice president of marketing and sales, highlighted the fact the port offers a safer unloading of goods, but also said it will mean moving ships to other communities more quickly since they won’t be bogged down for extended periods of time in Iqaluit.
“If we improve our efficiencies here in Iqaluit because we’re no longer waiting for the tide, then it’s going to benefit [other communities],” Bougie said.
“If we’re three days or four days earlier in Pangnirtung, in Kimmirut, in Cape Dorset (Kinngait), in other communities, we’re also de-risking a lot of the operation with this infrastructure.”
In addition to the optimism about shipping costs and services, Akeeagok said the GN is committed to working on getting more ports and small craft harbours built in Nunavut.
“There’s projects that are going on in the Baffin side; we need investments in Kitikmeot and Kivalliq, too,” he said.
“I hope that we can see more and more of these happening with partnerships with our federal government in seeing more of these realities into other communities.”