Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Summer REport- Pointe-au-Pic

The nearest commercial port to my summer roost is Pointe-au-Pic, located about 90 miles northeast if Quebec City, on the north shore of the St.Lawrence River. At one time it was renowned as one of the stops for the "white fleet" of Canada Steamship Lines. These passenger ships conducting sight-seeing trips from Montreal to the Saguenay River, also carried limited freight, and other passengers. They mostly supported the CSL-owned luxurious resort hotel Manoir Richelieu, sited high above the wharf.

Long a summer resort, the area also known as Murray Bay, contains the villages of Pointe-au-Pic, La Malbaie and Cap-à-l'Aigle (now all incorporated in the town of La Malbaie).  The Pointe-au-Pic wharf extends into deep water and is accessible at any state of the 15 foot tides in the area where most small ports dry out at low water.

Under the initiative of the Montreal hydroelectricity investment tycoon Sir Rodolphe Forget, a pulp mill was established in 1910 upstream on the Rivière Malbaie at Clermont, and a railway from Quebec City was started. Forget was also chairman of the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Co (R&O) and was responsible for building the resort hotel, and developing the cruise business. (Forget was also an elected Tory MP for the area in Sir Robert Borden's government, and was a major figure in the formation of the Dominion Steel Company. There were few conflict of interest rules in those days, but Forget was not admitted to Borden's cabinet due to his many business interests, many of which were in financial trouble.)

Eventually R+O became Canada Steamship Line, the newly formed Canadian National Railway took over the rail line and completed it to Clermont. (Plans to extend it to the Saguenay River and beyond never took place). The pulp mill evolved into a newsprint paper mill under the ownership of Donahue Bros. They exported the paper by rail and by ship from the Pointe-au-Pic pier.

Now, the rail line is a passenger only tourist line, the wharf is independent, and the newsprint mill is owned by Resolute and produces 225,000 tonnes per year. (The New York Times owned 49% of the mill until 2018.) The area is still a popular resort, but there is no longer any regular passenger ship traffic.

The wharf itself, with several expansions, now brings in wood chips and exports paper on a regular basis.

The wood chips arrive on the small Canadian flag bulk carrier Jean-Joseph.

Jean-Joseph unloads directly to trucks using is own mobile deck crane. The ship also transports chips to various other ports, including Port Hawksbury, NS. The ship carries gravel and other bulk cargoes when not doing chip work.

On dedicated service to Pointe-au-Pic and Baie-Comeau, Wagenborg's RoRo Oranjeborg is a frequent caller at Pointe-au-Pic loading paper for Europe.

Oranjeborg makes its careful approach to the pier (without tug assistance) in 2017. The buoy marks a notorious sand bar.

Oranjeborg loads newsprint rolls directly from the warehouse through side mounted elevator hatches, which work as weather protection awnings.

Several other Wagenborg ships also call at Pointe-au-Pic.

Albanyborg approaching Pointe-au-Pic streaming through the fog. It is a conventional open hatch tween decker and loads its box shaped holds through full width hatches, which offer no weather protection during loading.

Forklifts place newsprint rolls are placed in steel cribs (yellow frame between ship and signal tower) and craned onto the ship.

After a few days of delay due to rain, the ship completed loading August 12, but a rudder problem resulted in a cancelled sailing. A technician had to be called in from Montreal.No  ETD has been posted.


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