Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024

Towards a water port deep in Ungava Bay?

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Transport ships must currently dock in the middle of the river to unload their cargo. (Archive photo)

  • Félix Lebel (View profile)Félix Lebel

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The federal government awards a grant of $362,500 to the Nayumivik land corporation of Kuujjuaq to launch a feasibility study on the construction of a water port deep in Ungava Bay, which would make it easier to resupply Kuujjuaq.

The project has been in the pipeline for Nayumivik for some time now. An analysis of the seabed at the mouth of the Koksoak River was already carried out last summer.

The new sums received will make it possible to go deeper into the analysis of the environmental and logistical impacts of such a project.

The studies will allow us to understand the impact on the territory of an infrastructure like that. […] It is still a very used place where there is seal and beluga hunting. We go salmon and trout fishing and there is mussel picking, explains the general director of the Nayumivik land corporation, Tivi Dupuis.

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Tivi Dupuis also wants to encourage job creation, with possible local transport companies which could ensure the management of goods.

According to the land corporation, the construction of such a port could greatly facilitate the delivery of goods to Kuujjuaq.

The community is one of the only ones in the region not directly on the seaside, but rather 60 kilometers from the mouth of the Koksoak River, which flows into Ungava Bay.

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Transport ships must therefore for the moment dock on the Koksoak River, about twenty kilometers from Kuujjuaq, and unload all the containers onto small barges.

These floating platforms then go back and forth to the Kuujjuaq marina, following the rhythm of high tides.

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Ramps are installed to allow heavy vehicles to climb onto the barges,

In addition to goods, all the fuel needed to heat homes, run cars and planes, and produce electricity passes through these barges.

The operation can be relatively complex, since the bottom of the river changes from year to year and the water levels are inconsistent.

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Floating platforms must avoid sandbars in the bottom of the Koksoak River. (File photo)

The transshipment of gasoline was also delayed by a week during the summer due to the water level being too low in the river.

With a deep water port, we wouldn't have to wait for high tides and we could unload everything much more quickly and much more safely, assures Tivi Dupuis.

The studies should be carried out in the coming months, but it is still too early to consider a start date for a port in Ungava Bay.

The option of a deep water port in Ungava Bay has advantages, but also disadvantages, which must be studied, according to the general director of Arctic transport at the Desgagnés group, David Rivest.

There would be a gain in efficiency for unloading for sure, in the sense that we could always dock, regardless of the tides. […] But there are also constraints, including the very high cost of such an infrastructure, he explains.

The The long distance that separates the community of Kuujjuaq and Ungava Bay would also require the extension of the road to the north, on which the Nayumivik land corporation is already working.

David Rivest believes that building and maintaining such road infrastructure in the tundra could also become very expensive, which is another factor to consider.

It is a good idea to do a feasibility study, to weigh the pros and cons, to do an objective study, which considers the impact on communities and the environment. This will allow us to have the best project for Kuujjuaq, he adds.

In the short term, according to him, it would be beneficial to improve the safety during ship unloading operations, by creating limited traffic zones at the marina.

David Rivest takes the example of the city of Iqaluit , in Nunavut, where the establishment of such an infrastructure has greatly facilitated unloading operations for the Desgagnés group.

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The Iqaluit Harbor wharf was inaugurated in 2023 . (Archive photo)

To facilitate the transport of goods, the latter would also like the government to improve cartography and increase the presence of icebreaker ships in the Canadian Arctic.

If we lose transportation days because icebreaking ships are not available, that adds a level of complexity to all the operations and communities are less well served, concludes David Rivest.

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