Nova Scotia

McKeil Marine says it's serious about Sydney

Company says Sydney wasn't even on its radar not long ago, but now it has serious plans to make the port home for its Atlantic Canada operations.

Company supplies tugs, barges, marine equipment; wants base in Atlantic region

Blair McKeil, the chief executive of McKeil Marine Ltd., says his company has serious plans to locate its Atlantic Canadian operations in Sydney. (McKeil Marine Ltd.)

A supplier of tug, barges and marine equipment says Sydney wasn't even on its radar not long ago, but now it has serious plans to make the port home for its Atlantic Canada operations.

McKeil Marine Ltd. was named this week by Cape Breton Regional Mayor Cecil Clarke as a company that sees potential for growth in Sydney Harbour.

"What I need is a base where I can call home, and I can slowly build out so that I've got a place where I can do ship repair, I've got a place where I can do minor maintenance and repair, and to house our fleet," Blair McKeil, the company's chair and chief executive told CBC Cape Breton's Information Morning

McKeil has barges working on the Hebron oil project in Newfoundland's offshore, the quarry in the Strait of Canso and other jobs around the region.

"When we come off that Hebron project, for instance, we'll have 15 or 20 barges that need a place to call home," McKeil said. "We're hopeful we can bring those into Sydney."

McKeil said he knew nothing about Sydney Harbour until he was approached by consultant Barry Sheehy, who encouraged him to come to view the harbour and meet with local officials.
McKeil Marine Ltd. is eyeing the Sydney Harbour as the new location for its Atlantic Canadian fleet of barges and tugs. (Warren Gordon)

"I had a look at the facility. The wharves certainly need work, but it has potential," he said. "What I've told them is that if we can work out something that makes sense financially for both parties, that McKeil would start a presence there." 

As a show of good faith, he said, McKeil docked tugs in Sydney Harbour through the winter and had some repair work done at nearby Canadian Maritime Engineering Ltd.

"It's a good geographical location," McKeil said. "Some people think it's off the beaten path, but from a marine perspective it's not."

McKeil is looking to locate on a property at Sydport Industrial Park owned by East Coast Metal Fabricators.

There's a tentative deal for East Coast Metal Fabricators to sell the property to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality for $1.2 million. McKeil will lease the land for 20 years with an option for 20 more.

East Coast Metal Fabricators plans to reinvest its profit from the sale into a paint facility.

McKeil said his company is just waiting for the final elements of an environmental assessment.

Regional council will have to approve the land purchase before the deal can close. That could happen as early as June 23, the date of council's next monthly meeting.



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