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Tentative deal to restore rail line to Churchill

2018-06-02

McKeil Marine's Evans Spirit  won the International Bulk Journal's 2016 Ship of the Year Award during the IBJ's Salute to Excellence in the Maritime Bulk Industry gala awards ceremony in London, UK on November 21.
"It's a fantastic way to closeout our 60th anniversary year: having a vessel named after our founder, Evans McKeil, win this prestigious international award," said Steve Fletcher, President and CEO of McKeil Marine.
Acquired by McKeil in 2015, the Evans Spirit is a cargo ship with the shallow draught characters of a tug and barge; however, compared to a tug-and-barge unit, she can transport approximately 40 per cent more cargo about 50 per cent faster on a very similar amount of fuel.  She is in service throughout the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
Evans Spirit was shortlisted for 2016 Ship of the Year competing with three other vessels: CS Bright, Mitsui OSK Lines, Japan;  Damen Shipyards, Netherlands; and MN Baroque, Swiss Marine, Switzerland. The award is presented to the owner, operator or builder of an outstanding individual bulk ship. Judged on operational efficiency, design innovation, safety and environmental protection, the Evans Spirit was selected as winner. (Photo Paul Beesley).

An agreement in principle was announced in late May to bring ownership of the currently-closed Port of Churchill and the disabled rail line to the Manitoba town of 900 people on the shore of Hudson Bay back into Canadian hands. While legal and financial details remain to be finalized, the federal government said two groups representing northern communities and First Nations have joined forces with Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings to buy the assets from U.S. shortline operator Omnitrax.

Denver-based Omnitrax had closed the port and rail operations after the rail line - the sole surface link to Churchill in northern Manitoba - was washed out by severe flooding in May 2017. Citing the high costs, Omnitrax had refused to undergo repairs in the tens of millions of dollars to the money-losing Hudson Bay Railway trackage in Manitoba.

Part of the tentative agreement is to fast-track the restoration of the highly-damaged railway network.

A statement from Omnitrax Canada President Merv Tweed called the agreement "the best outcome for all stakeholders."

"We believe this firmly positions our regions for a bright future and Canada's only deep water Arctic seaport can take its rightful place as a strategic national Arctic gateway," Churchill Mayor Mike Spence said in a letter addressed to local residents via social media.

For his part, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister commented that while the deal still needs to close, he was encouraged that "all levels of government have recognized their constitutionally-mandated responsibilities." (photo HO-Canadian Press)


 
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