Port Clements Assesses Development Of A New Barge Facility on Haida Gwaii

Village of Port Clements

2012 - Located at the south-east end of Masset Inlet near the mouth of the famous Yakoun River, Port Clements has a long and proud history as the centre of the forest industry on Haida Gwaii since the 1940s. Today, forestry continues as one of the main employers in the region, accounting for over 35% of the Island's economy, and providing logging and forestry-related jobs that are an important source of employment income for both Haida and non-Haida people. With under 5,000 residents on Haida Gwaii, access to domestic and international markets is critical to the current health and long-term sustainability of most, if not all of the islands' industries. There are numerous small businesses on the Islands that rely on shipping to survive, and there are many business opportunities that currently are not feasible based on lack of access to economical shipping options.

Currently the predominant method of transportation for most businesses is via freight through BC Ferries. While this method is working for the short term, the communities and businesses on Haida Gwaii do not feel it is adequate in the long term. The Village of Port Clements recognises that its community needs to invest in a barge loading/offloading and storage facility to support the forestry sector and other industries with modern infrastructure and cost effective access to shipping including shipment via container. This project was first considered in 1997 when local businesses were polled for their support, and results of the poll found that the community was strongly in favour of investment in a modern barge facility in Port Clements. Unfortunately the funding needed for the project was not available at that time, and further work was required to assess the economic feasibility of a potential barge facility as well as pre-engineering to determine the capital cost of the required infrastructure.

Recently, the Village of Port Clements secured over $14,000 from Northern Development's Feasibility Studies funding program to undertake a comprehensive business case analysis and market assessment of the barge loading/offloading and storage facility infrastructure project. The key areas the project will focus on include: identifying operational requirements, estimating the capital requirements to construct the facilities; projecting the demand for the facility including current and future demands, timing, volume, and type; assess the facility's unique fit within the context of existing facilities on and around Haida Gwaii, assessing various operational models that exist for barge facilities and determine which model would be most ideal in Port Clements; and, assessing the potential for increases in economic development within existing and potential Haida Gwaii businesses by having direct shipping options on the island via container transport.

"Without the continued support from Northern Development Initiative Trust, this ongoing project would not be possible. The feasability study was a successful phase in the project, and we are looking forward to moving ahead with the market assessment phase of our project."

Heather Nelson-Smith, former Clerk/Treasurer, Village of Port Clements

Positive Economic Impacts in Port Clements

By building the barge loading/offloading and storage facility, the Village of Port Clements expects to see many positive economic impacts. The facility would be situated in the Village's industrial park where it would be viable to have a storage facility for containers, fuel, and other shippable items such as processed lumber. The barge facility would be anticipated to increase the amount of items processed on the island, thereby increasing the sustainability for many areas of Haida Gwaii's economy and the long term well-being of its communities. With the facility being located in the centre of Graham Island, this would also reduce transportation costs for island-based companies.