N.L. port would create jobs and open up the Arctic: CEO

The proposed port project would be located at Crémaillère Harbour, just a few kilometres away from St. Anthony.

Great Northern Port partners with MUN to research how project would benefit the area and open up the Arctic

A company with plans to build a commercial port facility on the Northern Peninsula is moving closer to its goal.

The proposed project to develop a full-service marine port at Crémaillère Harbour, less than five kilometres from St. Anthony, would bring needed jobs and activity into a remote part of Newfoundland as shipping through the Arctic gets closer to reality, said Dan Villeneuve, president and CEO of Great Northern Port.

“The idea of the project as a whole was the fact that the Arctic is opening up,” Villeneuve said. As that continues, the Northern Peninsula could be an important gateway to the Northwest Passage, he said.

Great Northern Port is currently preparing to a resubmission of its environmental preview report, taking in account comments received from the provincial government in February, Villeneuve told CBC Newfoundland Morning on Tuesday.

And this week the company partnered with Memorial University to study the potential economic impact of a commercial port facility at the Northern Peninsula harbour, as reported by VOCM on Monday.

An opening Arctic

In the works since 2016, the Crémaillère Harbour Marine Port project, if developed, would make St. Anthony a key location for travel and shipping to and from the Arctic, Villeneuve said.

Right now, goods travelling by ship from China go through Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe, a journey of 11,000 nautical miles, Villeneuve said. 

Right now, container ships like this one travel thousands of nautical miles from China through Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port. The opening of the Arctic could shorten that journey considerably.

“As the Arctic opens up … it’s realistic to think in the very near future that there’ll be approximately 5,300 nautical miles shaved from that,” he said.

That future might not be far off — just this summer, for example, Mersk had its first container ships going through the eastern Arctic, he said.

“It’s coming, and as we all know, Newfoundland is a great location.”

The port would include an industrial cluster, Arctic marine and air operations, and a centre for ice research among other facilities and services, VOCM reported. The joint research project with MUN will be led by economist Wade Locke.

Diverse port

The selection of that particular area near St. Anthony for the project was decided in part because of its physical attributes, Villeneuve said.

It’s coming, and as we all know, Newfoundland is a great location.

– Dan Villeneuve

“We depended on an ice study to give us a location,” he said. 

“Crémaillère Harbour was the location that was selected by science.”

The port would be diversified to ensure several income streams, he said. The size of the harbour, allowing for multiple uses, was also a factor, Villeneuve said.

“The harbour itself is actually a little larger than the St. John’s harbour,” he said. 

“So it’s not a small project. It is a big project.”

Community support

The “dynamic community of St. Anthony” was another draw, he said, as were the supportive small communities on the peninsula. Villeneuve said he hopes the harbour leads to a business cluster in that area, with a manufacturing hub and different harbour services available.

Over the last couple of years, people with Great Northern Port and the project have met with members of the communities that would be near the harbour project.

Dan Villeneuve, president and CEO of Great Northern Port, says he hopes the proposed port project would lead to the development of related businesses in and around St. Anthony, on the Northern Peninsula.

“We’ve had incredible support in the communities itself, and we think that there’s a great opportunity with the port development in that area,” he said.

The project, still in its development stage, has been completely privately funded at this point, Villeneuve said. 

Great Northern Port heard back from the province on its environmental preview report in February, and Villeneuve said  the company has since met with several government departments to review the comments — a process that is not unusual for a proposed project of this size, he said.

The Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment declined a request for an interview with minister Graham Letto, but provided a statement that said Letto requested additional information on wildlife and fisheries in the project area, the placement of particular port facilities, plans for the development of a women’s employment plan, the need for road upgrades and expected traffic in the area, and whether the proposed project mirrors what is currently or potentially offered at existing ports.

The company is currently preparing a resubmission of the report comments, which they expect to bring back to the provincial government in early April. The public will have 35 days to submit comments once Great Northern Port has submitted its revisions, the department said, and the minister’s decision will come within 10 days of the close of the public comment period.

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