Proposed Saguenay terminal project advances another step following Ottawa approval


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).

Leo Ryan
Construction has not yet been given a formal go-ahead for a proposed $260 million multi-user terminal on the Saguenay River that would handle large volumes of phosphate concentrate from deposits  situated 200 kms north away following a recent environmental approval, with certain conditions, accorded by the federal government. More hurdles need to be overcome for the big undertaking to proceed. While local environmental interests have raised concerns over the impact of increased maritime shipping on the region's beluga population, the leading proponents - Port of Saguenay and Arianne Phosphate Inc. - have welcomed the decision announced by Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change as a positive step forward.

Carl Laberge, General Manager and CEO of the Saguenay Port Authority, expressed "full awareness that there are other steps to be taken before the first shovel of earth." But he said the "happy news" allowed the growth-generating project to move closer to realization.

Brian Ostroff, CEO of Ariane Phosphate, said the minister's decision "greatly increases the chances of our project coming to fruition."

Ariane Phosphate is developing the Lac à Paul high quality phosphate deposits, with little or no contaminants, that would produce an estimated 3 million tons a year for shipment to global markets.

In making her decision announced on Oct. 22, the Minister reviewed the Environmental Assessment Report and the comments received from indigenous peoples and the public. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency concluded that the risk of adverse cumulative effects on the beluga whales in the St. Lawrence estuary caused by increased marine traffic would be low, and that the mitigation measures would help reduce the risks.


Of significance: the Minister's Decision Statement establishes more than 70 conditions to protect the environment, including marine mammals, fish and fish habitat, birds, the natural and cultural heritage and human health, and includes mitigation measures and requirements for a follow-up program that the Saguenay Port Authority must fulfill.

For example, to prevent potential effects of the project on the belugas in the Estuary of the St. Lawrence, the proponent will be required to ensure a visual monitoring, and order work stoppage in the presence of belugas during construction. The proponent will also be required to run a real-time monitoring of subaquatic noise levels caused by work in the aquatic environment.

Following this decision, the proponent will be required to obtain additional authorizations and permits from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada. The Agency will be responsible for monitoring and enforcing legally-binding conditions under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.

"My decision is based on rigorous scientific evidence, expertise from federal departments and extensive consultations with the public and First Nations" stated  Minister McKenna. "The Saguenay Port Authority will have to adhere to the established conditions to ensure the implementation of mitigation measures that reduce the risks on the beluga in the St. Lawrence Estuary."

According to the project's promoters, the proposed terminal at Sainte-Rose-du-Nord on the north shore of the Saguenay River would - under the "maximum scenario" - accommodate some 140 vessels annually, representing a 60% spike on existing maritime traffic.

In this regard, Alice-Anne Simard, head of the Eau Secours environmental group, has affirmed: "What concerns us especially is the increase of maritime traffic in the Fjord, which will put dangerous pressure on the belugas, but also on all marine species."

In Québec, she stresses, there is only one marine protected area - and it is in the Saguenay-Saint Lawrence marine park.
(Photo:artist rendering of proposed terminal).