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.
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.
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.”