UPDATE: Funding announced for second larger cruise ship berth in Sydney

Published January 23, 2017 - 6:25pm 
Last Updated January 23, 2017 - 6:35pm

Cost pegged at $20 million, but report notes potential for higher price
The federal and provincial governments announced funding of $13.3 million for a second berthage spot for cruise ships coming to Sydney.
The federal and provincial governments announced funding of $13.3 million for a second berthage spot for cruise ships coming to Sydney.
Sydney is getting a second cruise ship berth thanks to $13.3 million in funding from the federal and provincial governments.

Premier Stephen MacNeil and MP Mark Eyking announced Monday that the money will be earmarked for upgrades at the Sydney marine terminal, including a 287-metre berth that will allow Queen Mary II and other large cruise ships to dock during their runs along the New England–Quebec corridor.

The money, from the Small Communities Fund, is about two-thirds of the estimated $20-million project cost.

“The business model is there,” Eyking said, referring to a study released Jan. 11 by CPCS, a firm of civil engineering consultants.

“The second berth project is not premised on speculative traffic, but rather existing business that is growing and is expected to continue to grow,” states the CPCS study, which started while the project was still being handled by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

When funding for the berth through ACOA was tapped out, “We had to switch gears quickly, about a year ago,” Eyking said.

“We had to find a way to support it, and with the $180-billion dollar federal investment in infrastructure, it became available.”

To move ahead with the project, the CBRM will have to decide whether to buy land from Nova Scotia fish wholesaler Jerry Nickerson, whose companies operate the Merex, Nickerson and Seapro brands, and who owns several parcels of land and a water lot immediately north of the existing cruise ship berth.

The CPCS report noted that, to avoid running over budget, the CBRM will need to buy the Nickerson property for under $1.5 million, which the report suggested may be “an under-estimate”.

“We understand, for example, that the owner of the Nickerson Property is seeking $6 million,” the report stated. “This remains unresolved, though CBRM could choose to expropriate the land.”

“This land is also contaminated and we are not satisfied that the potential environmental remediation costs have been appropriately accounted for in the estimated costs of the second berth project.”

Nickerson did not return a phone call Monday.

Roger Cuzner, MP for Canso-Cape Breton, said “an investment like this benefits the entire region.”

“This is not a Sydney (only) project,” agreed Eyking, noting that most of the tour buses that run the Cabot Trail or, for example, to the Highland Village in Iona, are filled with passengers who arrive on cruise ships.

Premier McNeil said in a news release the funding is “an investment in the future prosperity of our island.

We are moving forward by sustaining and creating jobs while welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors to Cape Breton Island.”

More than 82,000 cruise ship passengers brought $22.9 million in economic spin-offs to Cape Breton in 2016, according to the release.