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Revitalized port would be a Godsend for fleets

CHURCHILL, Man. - An effort is under way to revitalize the Port of Churchill, and if those behind the movement are successful, it could be lucrative for northern Manitoba carriers.In May 2001, a feasi...


NORTHERN STAR: Gardewine North is one of the fleets positioned to gain.
NORTHERN STAR: Gardewine North is one of the fleets positioned to gain.

CHURCHILL, Man. – An effort is under way to revitalize the Port of Churchill, and if those behind the movement are successful, it could be lucrative for northern Manitoba carriers.

In May 2001, a feasibility study was done to evaluate the viability of forming a Churchill North Gateway Council (CNGC).

Since then, officials have gone ahead with the plan to form the council and drafted terms of reference for the proposed group.

Stakeholders in the Churchill North Gateway plan to meet Sept. 24, in Churchill to formally review the terms of service and take the next step toward making the port a more visible player in Canadian trade.

Tim Johnston, manager of North Central Development, has been instrumental in helping form the council.

“A fair bit of work has been done in terms of getting the terms of reference done,” says Johnston, who was involved in meetings from April until the end of July.

“We have now sent that to the stakeholders and invited them to participate in a one-day session in Churchill to formally review the terms of reference.”

A three-year action plan for the CNGC and a budget has also been inked, but those issues will also be up for a complete and full discussion at the September meeting.

When the council gets the go-ahead, it plans to “improve the image of the gateway, increase the volume of goods shipped through the gateway, monitor the competitiveness of the gateway, maintain and update infrastructure and to develop opportunities to promote the gateway,” according to Johnston.

One person who is eager to see the Port of Churchill revitalized is Jake Kosior, senior research associate of the University of Manitoba’s Transport Institute.

He has studied the port for years, and has written two research papers on the subject.

He says the facility isn’t currently being utilized to its fullest potential.

“It could be a very viable Arctic port,” says Kosior.

“If you look at the latitudinal and longitudinal locations, it’s on line with Helsinki and Stockholm and all the other northern ports.”

The port has traditionally been used for transporting bulk grain, but not much else.

However Kosior points out, it was once used for a wider range of imports, including automobiles in the 1930s and ’40s.

Now with global warming extending the shipping season, Kosior suggests there has never been a more appropriate time to rejuvenate the Port of Churchill and expand its use.

“The season is quite short, however with warming there has been a noticeable expansion … roughly by about one to two weeks,” points out Kosior.

“That would actually help the port itself become more viable.”

And although grain moves to Churchill by rail, the possibility is there for trucking companies to increase the role they play in the movement of grain.

He says that the northern highways can support double or even triple the current amount of truck traffic.

In fact, Kosior even goes so far as to suggest a new truck terminal could become a reality in Churchill or The Pas.

“If trade ever gets developed through there … I could eventually see a terminal being built,” says Kosior.

“There’s lots of potential for hauling grain in there.”

So, what’s the key to seeing that vision become a reality?

Kosior says that it lies in the hands of the people who will be gathered around the boardroom table in Churchill on Sept. 24.

“It all depends on the players,” says Kosior.

“The players have to come together as one cohesive group.” n


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