Cruise ship season 2017

By Mark Cardwell

The port of Sept-Îles is quickly becoming a popular international cruise ship destination in Eastern Canada. Eight years after its inaugural cruise season, when it welcomed three ships with 5,000 passengers, the port was visited eight times by five different ships carrying a total of 8,000 passengers during the 2017 sailing season.

The last and most notable visit was an unexpected stopover by the Queen Mary 2. The 350-metre-long ship was scheduled to make its inaugural visit to Sept-Îles on Sept. 28, 2018. However, the Cunard-owned transatlantic ocean liner made an unscheduled stop on October 2, and berthed there from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The 8-hour stop was booked just two weeks earlier to replace a visit to the port of Gaspé that Cunard cancelled over the speed limit that Canada imposed in a section of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence to protect endangered right whales.

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Tanker ban bill contrary to the Law of the Sea and ignores the reality of maritime transport

By Alex Binkley

Federal legislation to ban oil tankers from the northern section of the British Columbia coast is inconsistent with provisions of the U.N. Law of the Sea and should be subject to regular reviews, shipowner groups say.

In submissions to the Commons Transport Committee study on the bill, the Chamber of Shipping and the Shipping Federation of Canada called the bill an unjustified move that interferes with maritime commerce. Meanwhile the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents the world’s national shipowner associations and 80 per cent of the world merchant fleet, warned, “Such a draconian step could lead to serious concerns being raised by Canada’s international trading partners.” Simon Bennett, ICS’s Director of Policy and External Relations, said, “We would instead encourage Canada to continue its strong history of environmental protection and support for responsible global trade through the implementation of practical measures consistent with international best practices. This includes respecting IMO’s’s role in developing safe and sustainable shipping regulations and recommendations that might address any concerns that Canada may have.” The global shipping industry “fully recognizes the importance of robust environmental protection measures, and is committed to the goal of zero pollution, consistent with the comprehensive global regulatory framework adopted by the IMO in accordance with the U.N. Law of the Sea to which Canada is a State Party,” he said.

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Coal survives in a market full of change and consolidation

By R. Bruce Striegler

Centred on a theme of “A Sustainable Future: Coal and the Environment”, the 2017 conference of the Coal Association of Canada, held in Vancouver in late September, heard keynote speaker Ernie Thrasher say, “I was here in June last year, and I think most of us were sitting here praying we were at the bottom of the price curve, and there were presentations about the demise of the U.S. coal industry. One of the topics was how there were no U.S. coal mines that could survive in an $84 (per tonne) coking coal market and the debate was whether anyone could survive.” Thrasher outlined how many of those companies in the U.S. and Canada were undergoing financial restructuring, and how capital markets were closed to the coal industry, with large mining companies having decided that coal was not the place to be. With more than 40 years in the coal industry, Thrasher is the founder of XCoal, the largest exporter of U.S. coal to Asia, and has held various positions in mine operations and mine management, as well as marketing.

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Churchill’s history featured fits and starts

By Keith Norbury

That Churchill became a port town at all was an accident of history. In 1912, the federal and provincial governments in western Canada decided to develop an ocean port, Port Nelson, on Hudson Bay at the mouth of the Nelson River, according to a 2013 Canada/Manitoba Task Force Report on the Future of Churchill. A rail line was even started to connect to Port Nelson but work on the line was halted in 1918 when it was found that the location silted up.

Churchill proved to be a superior location for the port. So, work on the rail line resumed from where it had stopped, with the link to Churchill completed in 1927.

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Global e-commerce boom a great opportunity for logistics and ocean freight

By Alex Lennane in Miami

E-commerce offers significant opportunities to the logistics industry, including ocean carriers, according to retailers. Frank Diaz, Executive Vice-President of Price Smart, a U.S. warehouse chain and retailer and one of the top 50 container exporters in the U.S., urged the logistics industry to help it compete with etailers.

“E-commerce is generally difficult to make profitable,” he told delegates at Air & Sea Cargo Americas in Miami on November 1. “You have to do all the things the customer used to do – go to the store, drive home. The challenge is to make that profitable, and we are relying on the logistics industry to help us with that. Etailers have capitalized on one thing – a customer preference to shop online with 24/7 access to shops. That has changed the overall landscape and changed the bar. Prices must be complemented with the right shopping experience.”

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A new dawn for Port of Sept-Îles

By Mark Cardwell

Pierre Gagnon is no stranger to the business of mining iron ore. A mining engineer by trade, he worked several years for Quebec Cartier Mining (now part of ArcelorMittal) in the town of Fermont before joining Port of Sept-Îles as President and Chief Executive Officer in 2002. Since then, Gagnon has been working to help the Port’s major clients deal with the challenges of reaching global markets with the 80 billion tonnes of high quality iron ore reserve known to exist in the Labrador Trough.

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Churchill’s future up in the air but remains perpetually promising

By Keith Norbury

Churchill Home Building Centre put in a big order for about $1 million of stock early this spring in anticipation of a good year, said Dale De Meulles, a lifelong resident of the remote Manitoba town who co-owns the store with his wife Rhoda.

Buoying his optimism were a flood of inquiries from customers in even more remote communities in Nunavut to buy much of that stock. The good news was that the store received its stock before severe flooding in late May wiped out sections of the Hudson Bay Railway, the sole land-link connecting Churchill with the rest of the continent. The bad news is none of those inquiries from Nunavut turned into orders. As Rhoda De Meulles explained, the northern customers didn’t bother sending barges to Churchill because the railway wouldn’t be able to deliver their other supplies. Instead, those Nunavut communities turned to shippers in Montreal.

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How a tangled web of new rules could transform North American supply chains

By Alan M. Field

With the completion of the fourth round of talks to modernize the North American Free Association in late October, the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico are hoping to finish the entire series of seven rounds by the end of 2017. Whether or not the renegotiation process drags on for an additional few months in 2018, it’s clear that the net result will mark a turning point in the relationship between Canada and its North American trading partners. But what kind of turning point, and to what effect? What impact will the NAFTA renegotiation process have on the Canadian economy – and on the trading patterns and supply chains of Canada’s exporters and importers?

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Quebec Stevedoring a powerhouse in Eastern Canada

By Brian Dunn

Although the town of Sept-Îles has a population of only 25,000, it punches above its weight in maritime shipping and is one of the bigger terminal operations for Quebec Stevedoring Co. Ltd. (QSL) which has 30 port facilities, stretching from St. John’s in the east to Chicago in the west.

It’s not only mining that drives QSL, although it accounts for the bulk of its business in Sept-Îles, according to QSL CEO Robert Bellisle who noted the company will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018.

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Railway to Churchill closed as parties fight over who should fix the flood-damaged line

By Keith Norbury

The Hudson Bay Railway line proved no match for the uneven, boggy terrain of the Hudson Bay Lowlands this spring. On June 9, a news release from OmniTrax Inc., its owner, said it had suspended service indefinitely on the railway from Amery, 29 rail miles northeast of Gillam, to Churchill — a section it had been unable to operate since May 23. A preliminary assessment by an independent engineering firm found the flooding had washed the track bed away in 19 locations, the release said. The flood “visibly damaged” five bridges with another 30 bridges and 600 culverts needing further assessment.

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