Iqaluit’s new deepsea port set to finally open

GN invites public to attend opening ceremony with festivities, tours of the site

By Jeff Pelletier, Nunatsiaq News - July 25, 2023
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Iqaluit’s new deepsea port opens to the public Tuesday at noon. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

After decades of planning and several delays, Iqaluit’s new deepsea port is set to open Tuesday at noon.

The Government of Nunavut invited the public to take part in a celebration of the port’s opening and the arrival of the first sealift ship with music, food and tours of the port.

A shuttle service will be offered, leaving from the Nakasuk School parking lot.

It’s an opening day that has been decades in the making.

As early as the 1970s and 1980s, the federal government saw the need to build a port, according to a 2005 report by Aarluk Consulting and Gartner Lee Ltd., but those plans fizzled.

Then in 2005, the report noted, the City of Iqaluit was looking into building a port and initial designs were unveiled. It outlined a proposed construction timeline that would see the port completed and in operation by 2009.

In July 2015, then-MP Leona Aglukkaq announced the federal government would spend $63.7 million on a new port — about 75 per cent of the total $84.9 million cost — and the Government of Nunavut would cover the remaining  $21.2 million.

But about two and a half months later, Aglukkaq’s Conservative Party government led by then-prime minister Stephen Harper was defeated in the federal election.

The Liberals, under Justin Trudeau, took power, Aglukkaq lost her seat to Liberal Hunter Tootoo, and the port project’s future became uncertain.

Then in January 2016, the Liberal government confirmed the port funding was still there and the project was still a go.

In September that year, the territory’s Community and Government Services Department said it was eyeing the year 2020 as a completion date.

In an update from Community and Government Services in September 2017, the GN reiterated it was eyeing a completion date for fall 2020, with shipping operations to start in 2021.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board gave the port project the go-ahead in October 2017.

Tower Arctic Ltd., a majority Inuit-owned construction company, was awarded the contract to build the port in May 2018. Construction began shortly after.

In March 2020, the Government of Nunavut implemented travel restrictions to the territory as COVID-19 spread around the world. Despite that, Iqaluit city council voted in May 2020 to plow ahead with construction of several infrastructure projects including the port.

In October 2020, the GN said it was eyeing a 2021 completion date with a plan to begin shipping in 2022.

During question period in June 2022, Minister of Economic Development and Transportation David Akeeagok announced work on the port project had been delayed. As a result, it wouldn’t open until 2023.

In November 2022, the Government of Nunavut announced the port had been completed, and earlier this year Akeeagok said it would be ready in time for the summer sealift.

A cargo ship is already in the bay area around Iqaluit with more on there way, according to MarineTraffic.com.


Located in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, Nunatsiaq News is dedicated to covering affairs in Nunavut and the Nunavik territory of Quebec since 1973. It has been a partner to ArcticToday and its predecessors since 2016.

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