The Iqaluit deep-sea port is a year behind schedule and will not be completed until September 2022, according to the Government of Nunavut.

The reasons for the setback are due to complications relating to the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to “lower than anticipated productivity from the contractor prior to COVID,” the Department of Community and Government Services (CGS) stated.

Project costs have risen but will still be covered within the existing budget, according to the territorial government.

Tower Arctic, which has an office in Iqaluit and a long history of construction in the North, was awarded the contract for the Iqaluit port and small-craft harbour in May 2018 for close to $65 million. At the same time, the company also took on a contract to build a small-craft harbour in Pond Inlet for $24 million. That project isn’t necessarily on pace to be completed by the end of this year’s construction season either. Tower Arctic has encountered problems relating to equipment failure, equipment selection for the job and inability to advance the installation of the sheet pile wharf, the GN acknowledged.

It’s expected that work in Pond Inlet and Iqaluit will resume in early June.

The project workforce in Iqaluit rises to 50 to 60 employees at full production, while a maximum of 20 to 30 people are needed in Pond Inlet.

Finding experienced workers has proven to be an obstacle due to COVID travel restrictions and related isolation requirements, according to CGS.

Earlier this month, Tower Arctic posted on social media that Nunavut’s chief public health officer laid out public health protocols to mobilize its workforce for the summer construction season. All employees will self-isolate at a designated hotel in the south for 14 days prior to flying to Iqaluit. Tower Arctic also has a number of precautions in place at its worksites to prevent spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing of two metres or mask wearing, increased sanitization and health monitoring.

Federal funding

The federal government announced up to $64 million toward the Iqaluit deep-sea port in July 2015 and up to $30 million for the Pond Inlet small-craft harbour.

The port, located at the south end of Polaris Reef in Koojesse Inlet, is intended to improve the efficiency and safety of sealift and fuel deliveries in Iqaluit because it will be accessible during all tides, as opposed to just a few hours a day during high tide. It will also help to separate the navigation of industrial and commercial vessels from boats used by fishers and hunters.

Iqaluit’s small-craft harbour, which is extending the existing breakwater and causeway, will offer protection to boats at 40 mooring points. There are also two floating docks – meant for loading and unloading – that can accommodate about 14 boats at a time, CGS stated. The new boat ramp will be approximately five times the width of the existing ramp and can be used during all tides.

In Pond Inlet, the small-craft harbour is being built on the beach that has traditionally been used for launching boats and receiving sealift vessels. The two rock breakwaters will protect close to six acres of harbour and up to 80 small boats.

Although the harbour is not completed, Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq said it already offers a degree of protection to boats and to residents who live near the shoreline.

“Because in the past when the wind picks up and the waves were pounding the shores, the salt water would almost touch the road down by the beach where the homeowners had built their houses … it’s one of the benefits we have seen in Pond Inlet,” Qamaniq said of the partially-finished harbour.

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