Port of Churchill
Source: Ronald Margulis
OmniTRAX Canada said it has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to sell its assets in Manitoba to the Missinippi Rail Consortium, owned by a group of northern Manitoba First Nations.
The assets to be sold include the Hudson Bay Railway, the Port of Churchill on Hudson Bay, and a tank farm adjacent to the port.
“This step was taken after a year of due diligence and the signal from the consortium that it intends to move forward," OmniTRAX said. "The federal government is still looking at supporting this transaction, but in the meantime, the 2017 grain season hangs in the balance as well as the continued shipment of freight through the North.”
No grain was shipped through Churchill in 2016. A spokesman for OmniTRAX said that after the Canadian Wheat Board was privatized, wheat that had previously been routed to Churchill shifted to other ports such as Thunder Bay on Lake Superior, or ports on Lake Ontario or in British Columbia.
The Winnipeg Free Press
reported last year that OmniTRAX CEO Kevin Shuba complained the government of Manitoba was "reneging on an agreement to provide financial assistance to the port, and the federal Liberal government is stalling a proposal to sell the port and railway to a consortium of first nations."
"The MOU will ensure that the consortium commences the ownership process and is able to negotiate with vendors in order to preserve and enhance the 2017 grain season," OmniTRAX said.
“We are grateful that OmniTRAX Canada believes in our process and our people and is willing to get started now," said Arlen Dumas, chief at the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation. "Ensuring First Nations ownership in these assets is a vital part of ensuring long term viability in the North. Now we need the government of Canada to complete their review so that this process can be concluded as soon as possible."