Expert questions need for a deepwater port in Kuujjuaraapik
“I would question if we really even need a deepwater port in Nunavik”
MONTREAL — The $32 million that Quebec is investing in the creation of a deepwater port near the Nunavik community of Kuujjuaraapik would be better spent on improved charting and navigation aids for Arctic-bound vessels, says the head of a deep sea freight transport company that operates in the Eastern Arctic.
“I can’t see the feasibility of putting a [deepwater] port in Nunavik and why they’d put it there,” said Christopher King, director of operations for Petro-Nav, who specializes in oil transport to communities in Nunavik and on Baffin Island.
“[Kuujjuaraapik’s shoreline] is incredibly shallow and it would take a great deal of dredging,” King told Nunatsiaq News. “I would question if we really even need a deepwater port in Nunavik.”
A deepwater port would serve more purpose in a larger community like Kuujjuaq, he added, although he acknowledged that the Koksoak river offers its own obstacles.
From a freight transport perspective, one deepwater port does little to help cargo vessels reach the other 13 villages in the region, King said.
Plan Nord, Quebec’s scheme to develop northern Quebec, also for includes a ground link from the town to the James Bay community of Radisson — and to southern Quebec’s road network.
“Government investment would is still better served with improved charts and navigation aids,” King said.
Only about 10 per cent of Arctic waters are charted or mapped to show navigators the safest sea routes to take. And many navigational aids that were installed in the 1960s and 70s are simply outdated.
King said that community ports, particularly those in Nunavik, could also use better lighting and the addition of bollards, which are short vertical posts anchored in rock to secure tankers and other vessels.
Petro-Nav, a subsidiary of Group Desgagnés, delivers Nunavik’s petroleum products through the Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec.
Tankers could also benefit from enlarged pipelines to discharge the oil through its now four-inch wide pipes, suggested King, who was also a featured speaker at a recent polar shipping conference in Montreal, organized by a U.K. group called Active Communications International.