Corner Brook -
The Corner Brook Port Corp. has completed a feasibility study of a project which would open up some much-needed waterfront property, not to mention more distant newsprint markets for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper.
The project, should funding sources be found to pay the $71-million price tag attached to it, involves building a new 500-metre dock across the basin from the existing wharf where the Oceanex property is located from Corner Brook Pulp and Paper's existing wharf.
The mill's wharf would also be extended. The new infrastructure would provide deeper draft, enabling Corner Brook Pulp and Paper to accommodate larger, more efficient vessels and facilitating access to global markets, the port corporation said in a news release issued Thursday afternoon.
While the newsprint mill is struggling with woeful market conditions, there are growing demands for newsprint products in the emerging economies of China and India.
"New infrastructure would allow us to overcome the limitations associated with our existing dock, helping us to become more competitive internationally," Patrick Corriveau, the mill's general manager, said in the port corporation's news release.
The feasibility study, which estimated it would take four years to carry out the project, included a review of technical and environmental issues and a comprehensive analysis of the infrastructure costs and potential business opportunities arising from its completion.
While Oceanex would continue to load and unload containers at the existing dock and would not utilize the newer section of the wharf, creating an additional multi-use berth in the basin would allow the port to accommodate multiple vessels and ship a broader range of commodities. It would also make room for a cruise terminal, which is infrastructure the Corner Brook port currently lacks.
Jackie Chow, the port corporation's chief executive officer, said the growth would be significant since the corporation has few options to expand its area on the waterfront.
The proposed extension would replace the section of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper's dock which was condemned years ago and create additional berth space across the basin. The fact there is only one berth for cruise traffic has already cost Corner Brook its fair share of cruise visits. In 2009 and 2010, Chow estimated the port lost 30,000 cruise passengers because the dock could only handle one ship.
"That's a recurring problem for us," she told The Western Star Thursday. "We're trying to grow a business, but we don't have the capacity to accommodate that growth.
"On that note, could you justify building a new berth strictly for cruise ships? No, you couldn't because it doesn't generate enough revenue."
The idea of creating an additional multi-use berth in the basin area is still worth pursuing, according to the port corporation, since it would allow the port to accommodate multiple vessels and ship a broader range of commodities.
The feasibility study was an initiative of the Corner Brook and Area Gateway Committee, formed in 2007 by local industry and government representatives to explore growth opportunities for the region related to the Atlantic Gateway concept.
Ken Hynes, the port corporation's chairman, is confident the project would enhance the port's capabilities and ensure its long-term sustainability.
"The Atlantic Gateway memorandum has focused attention on ports as economic drivers for trade and this project, combined with our strategic location, would position us to pursue new business opportunities and to grow existing business," Hynes said. "Additional berthage creates possibilities for increased export activity, growth in the cruise sector and development in new industries, such as oil and gas. The port is encouraging all levels of government to support this project in the coming months."
The next stage, Chow said, is to explore potential funding programs for this sort of project and see if the port corporation and the committee can meet the timelines associated with those sources of funding.
The port corporation cannot spend any of the federal money it received from Transport Canada when it took control of the port in 2004 on this project, but it can invest interest generated from that funding into capital projects. While it has been investing that money on capital projects, Chow said partners will need to come onboard in order to make the wharf expansion project a reality.
"We have yet to negotiate any agreements with potential partners," Chow said.