Northern grain port builds “business bridge”

Port business development agencies at Manitoba’s Hudson bay port of Churchill and at Halifax have agreed to pursue “mutual opportunities” in grain shipping and northern business ventures.

“This is a partnership of national economic significance,” Stephen Dempsey, chair of the Halifax Gateway Council, in a joint release Tuesday.

“A business and export bridge between Churchill and Halifax holds great
potential to benefit the economies of both regions and the viability of our
ports.

Under their new memorandum of understanding, the Halifax council and the Churchill Gateway

Development Corp. have agreed to “jointly explore trade-related opportunities
for companies in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada.”

The memorandum will provide a
framework for the organizations to build a “reliable and cost-effective grain
bridge between the two ports.”

The concept of using Churchill to move cargo to domestic ports in Canada’s East was first tried in practice in September 2007, when an Arctic supply ship hauling goods from Montreal to Churchill brought Prairie grain from Churchill’s port terminal to a Halifax flour mill on backhaul.

The CGDC noted at the time that about half a dozen Arctic supply ships will dock at Churchill during the port’s short shipping season each year, and could take grain or other cargo on an ongoing basis.

“By working collaboratively, the ports of Churchill and Halifax will
assist in further developing Canada’s national gateway infrastructure,” CGDC chairman Lloyd Axworthy said Tuesday, adding that “this joint effort will work to ensure the long term success of the Port of Churchill.”

Churchill is seen by many observers as an important port option for Prairie grain growers, especially in northeastern Saskatchewan and northwestern Manitoba, who have the most direct rail access to Hudson Bay.

But the port is also hindered by its short (July-November) shipping season and its reliance on the Hudson Bay Railway, a former CN line running over muskeg and Canadian Shield terrain.

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