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Transport Minister John Baird says he believes the best people to run local ports are the people in the community who use them.

The federal government has transferred ownership of the Port of Summerside to the Summerside Port Corporation Inc., Transport Minister John Baird announced Friday.

The local group will get about $20 million from Ottawa to cover operational costs and maintain the port's infrastructure, he said.

It's a 25-year deal, negotiated over the past 18 months.

'This transfer will put control of the port directly into the hands of local interests to benefit the community and contribute to the economy of Summerside for years to come.' —Transport Minister John Baird

"The Summerside Port Corporation Inc. has demonstrated an interest in managing and developing the area's waterfront assets," said Baird.

"That's why today's announcement is so important. This transfer will put control of the port directly into the hands of local interests to benefit the community and contribute to the economy of Summerside for years to come."

The Summerside Port Corporation Inc. is a not-for-profit group established to promote the development of the port, with membership from local businesses and community stakeholders.

Challenge and opportunity

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Arnold Croken says the Summerside Port Corporation will look for new opportunities. ((CBC))

"We are very pleased that we will now be in a position to work hard to make this port a valuable asset to our community," said Arnold Croken, president of the port corporation.

"The potato shipments have died down, almost to a trickle. We know it's going to be a challenge, but we feel there's an opportunity now for Summerside to position ourselves to attract whatever business that P.E.I. was shipping before and is having difficulty finding another port to get that generated through this port here."

The Port of Summerside currently processes commercial goods, primarily fertilizer, root crops and gravel.

Croken said the port corporation will continue to focus on shipping and receiving of goods, but will look for other opportunities.

"The transit shed is a tremendous facility. The trade show is held there through the chamber of commerce each year, so it offers some opportunities to look beyond the shipping and receiving when the seasons are quiet and that will be part of the plan moving forward."

The port property includes 2.3 hectares of land and a harbour with 90.07 hectares in water lots.

There are three independent terminals referred to as the Marine Terminal, which includes a 5,300-square-metre freight shed, Holman's Wharf and Queen's Wharf. The property also includes two breakwaters.

This is the third Island port Transport Canada has divested itself of, due to declining ship traffic and business.

The other two are Souris and Charlottetown.