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Officials believe the best place to dock smaller cruise ships would be at the Chatham marina, next to the Centennial Bridge. (Government of New Brunswick)

The City of Miramichi is working with three nearby First Nations communities to attract small cruise ships and other commercial vessels.

Metepenagiag (Red Bank), Esgenoopetitj and Eel Ground have hired a consultant to see how much it would cost to dredge the Miramichi River for ships, as well as where to build a wharf, said Jeff MacTavish, the city's economic development officer.

"We knew we had to look at not only the initial upfront investment of getting the river cleared out, but also the ongoing maintenance," he said.

"And that's where the First Nations community stepped up and they said, 'You know what, we would like to take on the challenge of establishing a port authority here to provide a service and to take responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of the river.'"

Roger Augustine, of the Assembly of First Nations, said the Mi'kmaq used the river for thousands of years and now, First Nations would like to be involved in any future development.

He said he believes the best place to dock the cruise ships would be at the Chatham marina, next to the Centennial Bridge.

The biggest obstacle is the sand and silt that keeps accumulating at the mouth of the river and how much it would cost to keep the channel open for bigger ships, he said.

"A lot of that information that we're waiting for now will determine the future of the project," said Augustine.

MacTavish said tourists could enjoy flyfishing, as well as the Irish and aboriginal culture in the area.

"European culture in general seems to have a great interest in the First Nations of Canada," he said.

MacTavish said he would also like to see more cargo ships use Miramichi as a port.

Ships used to regularly use Miramichi as a port, bringing immigrants and receiving lumber, stone and fish, he said.