In late August, Baffinland’s Mary River iron mine received its first visit from a capesize shipping vessel. For anyone in the area, it was difficult to miss.

Capesize ships measure 50 metres across, and 300 metres in length — nearly as long as five NHL rinks, end-to-end. They are too big to navigate famous waterways like the Suez and Panama canals, and 2.2 times larger than the Panamax vessels that typically carry the mine’s ore.

The vessel that docked at the Milne Inlet port, which sits about 100km north of the mine, is owned by German shipping company Oldendorff, and is officially the largest ship that’s ever visited the mine.

It was “massive,” according to Pond Inlet’s Gavin Kunuk, the first Baffinland operator to load the mine’s ore onto the conveyor belt leading to the ship.

“We’d never seen anything like this here before,” he said. “It was a sight to see.”

Kunuk, who moonlights as a substitute teacher, has worked for Baffinland for about six months. He said the visit from the capesize vessel was one of his favourite experiences on the job so far.

“I was happy the whole day,” he said. “Even when I woke up [the next day], I couldn’t believe I was the first guy to load the big ship.”

The enormous ship was docked at Milne Inlet port for 48 hours, and ultimately left with 165,000 metric tons of iron ore aboard. That ore, which is broken into small pieces called fines, is bound for Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.

The mine is expecting visits from four more of the hulking vessels this season, and depending on when they arrive, Kunuk could again have a hand in loading them.

It was fast-paced work, and he admits it took some getting used to, but it’s safe to say he wouldn’t object to taking on such duties again.

“When I first applied with Baffinland, I didn’t think I’d be a ship loader,” he said. “I thought they’d put me in other departments, but I’m glad they chose me for the ship loading department.

“I love my job. I always miss it when I have days off or weeks off. I always want to drive loaders. I don’t mind driving them every day.”

The arrival of the Oldendorff ship required more than two years of planning, according to Peter Akman, Baffinland’s head of stakeholder relations and communications.

The planning phase included everything from terrestrial and marine surveys to construction. Baffinland also held practice sessions at the port ahead of the ship’s docking, which ran through the whole process.

“It was a huge team effort with safety at the heart of every step we have taken and will take in the future,” Akman said. “Even after the departure of this capesize vessel, there will be ongoing debriefs and learning to apply to the next vessel arriving.”

By Tom Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Sep 11, 2023 at 06:24

This item reprinted with permission from   Nunavut News   Iqaluit, Nunavut
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