Contracting firm with booming business sees port as key

Business at a Nunavut contracting company is booming and its owners say Churchill will play an increasingly important role as its preferred supply-chain route.

Allan Lahure has seen business at his Baker Lake Contracting & Supplies company grow steadily, helped by the opening last year of Agnico-Eagle’s Meadowbank gold mine, 70 kilometres north of Baker Lake.

His company’s growth includes the acquisition in 2007 of a distribution company called Umingmak Supply. Its Inkster Industrial Park operation is shipping building products up the Hudson Bay Railway to Churchill, where they are barged to communities along the west coast of Hudson Bay.

That’s a scenario many say has great growth potential for Manitoba’s transportation sector.

“Our connections with Manitoba are much more direct than through Montreal,” Lahure said in an interview from his Baker Lake headquarters.

OmniTRAX is addressing that supply-chain efficiency issue with the creation this summer of a joint venture with Nunavut partners called Nunavut Connections.

The company provides stevedoring services and a seamless supply-chain operation from Churchill to the North.

Chase is in Rankin Inlet today at a meeting of Kivaliq-area mayors. It is part of the efforts of OmniTRAX — which owns the Hudson Bay Railway and the Port of Churchill — to grow its Nunavut business.

“We just completed a successful year shipping 10,000 tonnes of cargo delivered there on time and on schedule,” Chase said. “We intend to grow that considerably.”

That volume represents less than 20 per cent of the total, with the bulk of the Arctic sealift still coming primarily out of Quebec.

Chase and many others — including business groups led by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and CentrePort Canada — say there is a real opportunity to change that dynamic.


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Putin says Arctic trade route to rival Suez

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday predicted Arctic shipping routes along Russia’s northern coast would soon rival the Suez Canal as a quicker trade link from Europe to Asia.

Russian plans to revive the Soviet-era shipping lane as polar ice cover receded to near record lows this summer could speed energy deliveries to China and boost business for cargo suppliers such as state-owned Sovkomflot.

Officials at the Arctic Forum in the White Sea port city of Arkhangelsk said Russia must develop infrastructure to guard against oil spills, revamp ports and build more icebreakers to realise Putin’s vision of year-round shipments.

“The shortest route between Europe’s largest markets and the Asia-Pacific region lie across the Arctic. This route is almost a third shorter than the traditional southern one,” Putin told participants, who included Iceland President Olafur Grimsson.

High energy prices fueled by demand from China and other emerging economies are helping spur interest in the Northern Sea Route, which trims 4,000 nautical miles (7,400 km) off the southern alternative via the Suez Canal.

“I want to stress the importance of the Northern Sea Route as an international transport artery that will rival traditional trade lanes in service fees, security and quality,” Putin said.

“States and private companies who choose the Arctic trade routes will undoubtedly reap economic advantages.”

To meet demand, Putin said Russia will spend 38 billion roubles ($1.2 billion) through 2014 on adding to its atomic icebreaker fleet and plans to build three more by 2020.

“There is interest in transport on the Northern Sea Route and it is now shifting from the experimental to the commercial sectors,” Russian deputy transport minister Viktor Olersky said.

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Arctic Shipping Navigation Satellite to launch 2012


Japanese Weathernews will launch a satellite in September 2012 that will provide navigational services to ships travelling along the Russian and North American coasts in the Arctic Ocean, the newspaper Nikkei reported.

A 30 percent reduction in sea ice coverage over the last 30 years due to global warming has opened up the Arctic Ocean to shipping, including the shortest sea route between Europe and Asia.

The satellite will be launched from the Yasny launch base in Russia’s Orenburg region. The cost of development and launch will be about $1.7 million. It will circle the Earth 15 times a day.

The satellite will transmit images and information about sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. Weathernews will combine the information with available data on sea currents, weather and wave height to provide consumers with a finished product enabling safe navigation along the northern route.

“Even a one-week reduction in travel time will significantly reduce fuel costs and speed cargo delivery to the end point. Moreover, this route is much safer than other routes that expose ships to attack from Somali pirates,” Nikkei reported, citing a major Japanese shipping company.




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The inventor who’s putting blimps back on the radar

Mr Burns is a test pilot for Hybrid Air Vehicles, a British engineering company that is pioneering a comeback of the dirigible behemoths of yesteryear with a modern twist that will make them both safer and significantly more efficient than their predecessors.

The Cranfield-based company, that struggled for years to be taken seriously by the aviation industry, has just signed a multimillion-pound contract with a Canadian firm to supply a brand new range of heavy-lift airships that will carry goods to remote areas of the Arctic, where roads are non-existent.

They will be used mainly in the mining industry to ship in heavy equipment and take away raw material from some of the most remote communities in North America. The first generation of 300ft-long (91m) ships will be able to lift up to 20 tons but there are plans for vessels that could lift ten times that.

It sounds like something straight out of a Philip Pullman novel – giant airships floating near silently through the ice-cold skies of the Arctic – but if all goes to plan we could see a fully built British airship crossing the Atlantic as early as 2014.

Hybrid Air Vehicles’ new ships are filled with entirely inert helium into a Kevlar-reinforced semi-rigid balloon that loses less than three per cent of its gas every year. The balloon itself is aerodynamically shaped like an oversized wing, providing lift as it moves forward. Four engines add extra power, allowing it to take off and land on anything from gravel, sand, ice and water.

Barry Prentice, a professor of supply chain management at the University of Manitoba, builds, tests and studies airships. He describes the plan to supply northern Canada with a fleet of the vehicles as “a tipping point” that will herald the return of commercial Zeppelins.

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Russian minister urges better environmental protection in Arctic

Russia should develop environmental protection infrastructure in its segment of the Arctic, including oil spill response centers, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday.

Russia will gradually expand its presence in the region as retreating Arctic ice extends the period when the Northern Sea Route remains ice-free, he said.

“There [in the Arctic] we will need navigation safety projects and bases to deal with all kinds of tasks: from fuelling and navigation to communication systems and rescue. We must also set up centers to deal with – God forbid – oil spills,” Shoigu said at a news conference ahead of an international forum to discuss problems of the Arctic.

The second international forum, The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue, will be held in the northern Russian city of Arkhangelsk on September 22-24. This year, the forum will focus on transport issues, key to the development of the Arctic region.

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Moscow Envisions Rail Tunnel to North America

The most ambitious railway project of all time, a 65-mile tunnel linking Asia and North America under the Bering Strait, has been endorsed by the Kremlin as part of its overall plan to exploit natural resources in Siberia and the Arctic Circle.

The $98 billion scheme, including the tunnel construction, is planned for completion by 2030.

A track expansion in Russia is needed of about 2,360 miles beyond where a current rail construction project ends, taking the train to the eastern tip of Siberia, before it tunnels under the Bering Sea twice the distance of Britain’s Channel Tunnel. Cape Prince of Wales could become the point of entry into the American continent.

East and West would meet at the international dateline at the mid-straits islands of Russia’s Big Diomede and the U.S. territory of Little Diomede.

The motivation behind the megaproject is for cheaper, faster, and more secure transport of goods around the world. Project promoters say it could carry about 3 percent of the world’s freight, earning $11.5 billion a year.

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Russian Infrastructure Investment Propelling Northeast Passage

As we have previously noted, Russia continues to invest in the Northeast Passage:

“If Russia gives the green light to develop this as a full commercial transit route, it would make Sovcomflot’s whole investment case completely different,” said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at ING Bank NV in Moscow. “It would make it more attractive to potential investors.”

Sovcomflot, along with companies such as OAO Novatek, is sending test cargoes via the Arctic route, which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has vowed to transform into a year-round passage. To make it work, Russia must revamp ports, install rescue systems and build icebreakers for as much as 30 billion rubles ($1.1 billion) each to provide safe passage for tankers.

The future of the Northern Sea Route will depend on Russia’s energy plans in the Arctic and demand among shippers for transit — neither of which is clear as yet.

“We’re preparing infrastructure and icebreakers,” said Alexander Poshivai, head of shipping at the Federal Agency for Sea and River Transport. “We have to be ready, it’s a strategic route.”

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