Montreal-based Fednav has ordered a new icebreaking bulk carrier in Japan to sustain the year-round transportation requirements of Glencore’s Raglan nickel mine in northern Quebec, writes David Tinsley.

The 31,000dwt vessel has been contracted through trading house Sumitomo Corporation and will be built by Japan Marine United Corporation (JMU) at the Yokohama shipyard. The template for the project will be provided by Fednav’s 31,750dwt Nunavik, claimed to be the world’s most powerful icebreaking bulker when commissioned in 2014 from JMU’s Tsu yard.

Nunavik is in turn similar in design to the company’s 32,000dwt Umiak 1, delivered in 2006 by JMU predecessor Universal Shipbuilding. Both existing vessels support northern mining operations.

The newbuild will be of Polar Class 4 standard and, as with Umiak 1 and Nunavik, will offer a broader cargo carrying capability than that of a pure bulker. While ensuring a southbound flow of high quality nickel concentrates, she will also be used to transport a variety of supplies to the mining complex on northbound voyages, including equipment, machinery and dry and liquid consumables.

The project is the outcome of a 20-year partnership agreement with Glencore embracing the construction and operation of a newbuild to supersede the 28,400dwt Arctic, which has serviced the Raglan shipping contract for decades.

Fednav’s pioneering, icebreaking multipurpose bulker Arctic was brought into service during 1978 from the Port Weller yard in Ontario. Over the past 40 years, she has played a vital logistic role for the Canadian base metals extractive industry in the far north.

Arctic has recently undergone mandatory 40th year drydocking at Les Mechins, Quebec, for inspection, repair and maintenance to enable another two years of service until the replacement vessel is commissioned in October 2020.

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