Nova Scotia

New CBRM waterfront helipad touted as hope for future of tourism

Officials expressed hope for the future of tourism after a chopper landed on the Sydney waterfront on Friday to officially open Cape Breton Regional Municipality's new helipad.

Sydney port officials say they are ready for cruise ships to return next year, despite tourism drop this year

Parker Horton, CEO of Breton Air, says Cape Breton Regional Municipality's new helipad will allow the company to offer tours and excursions for big-spending visitors. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Officials expressed hope for the future of tourism after a chopper landed on the Sydney waterfront on Friday to officially open Cape Breton Regional Municipality's new helipad.

CBRM council approved the $100,000 facility last year as part of the construction of a second cruise ship berth near the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion. The funds had been allocated for a boardwalk expansion that had to be shelved due to the relocation of Nova Scotia Community College's Marconi campus.

Breton Air flies helicopters out of J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport. CEO Parker Horton said the helipad, which is located between the cruise ship docks, is a great investment in tourism infrastructure.

"The clients who are utilizing the services of Breton Air are forecasted to be in the traditional big-spender market," he said.

"These individuals will now be given the opportunity to conduct a quick, scenic tour or a helicopter trip with a small excursion added on. These clients will now be gone for one to two hours for their port stay, instead of the duration, giving them more time to spend their money and their time in our downtown core."

Tourism, and especially the cruise ship industry, took a big hit this year, but Port of Sydney cruise marketing manager Nicole MacAulay said business will return and the port will be ready.

A helicopter is shown in the air.
A chopper from Breton Air was on hand for the grand opening of CBRM's new helipad, built onto the second cruise ship berth project in 2020. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"We do not know what the future holds and this year has been very clear for that message, but I do know that when cruise does resume, we will be ready and we will be better than ever," she said.

Kathleen Yurchesyn, CEO of the Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce, said Sydney's port had been forecasting a record cruise ship season, but the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled it.

Still, she said, the business community remains focused on next year.

"It is so incredibly important to celebrate the accomplishments and the resilience of our business community and also demonstrate the hopefulness of the future," Yurchesyn said.

Andrew Prossin, CEO of One Ocean Expeditions, was one of the speakers invited to address the small crowd.

He was forced to seek creditor protection earlier this year after the leases on two ships he used for his polar exploration and cruise ship company were cancelled.

Prossin said he was happy to support the added tourism amenities on Sydney's waterfront.

"This community hasn't sat by and waited for something to pass," he said. "The cruise industry will come back."

Andrew Prossin, CEO of One Ocean Expeditions, says he hopes to acquire a cruise ship and operate tours out of Sydney Harbour next year, once his company emerges from creditor protection. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Prossin said the second cruise ship berth and the helipad should be just the start of more investment in port infrastructure in Sydney Harbour.

"Let's make Sydney not just a tourism hub, but a real logistics hub here on the Eastern Seaboard, and maybe that gateway to the Arctic."

Prossin declined to be interviewed, saying creditors have approved his restructuring plan, but it is not yet approved by the court.

He said that is expected to occur later this month.

Prossin said he hopes to return to Sydney next year with another cruise ship after One Ocean Expeditions emerges from creditor protection.



Tom Ayers


Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 37 years. He has spent the last 19 covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at