Port of Digby bustling with boats in wake of renovations

DIGBY — Digby may be one of the most expensive ports in Nova Scotia when it comes to tying up a fishing boat, but the town’s public wharf is nonetheless expanding in a big way.

To date this year, some 83 boats use the wharf as a home port. That is an increase of almost 20 vessels since the Port of Digby took over ownership in 2008, said Jeff Sunderland, manager of the Digby Harbour Port Association.

With each boat using three to five crew members, the local fishing fleet creates more than 300 direct jobs, without mentioning indirect spinoff employment.

“We’re the highest (charging) fishing harbour, certainly, that I’m aware of,” Sunderland said recently. “We’re one of the few, if not the only, publicly operated fishing harbours in the province as well.”

The association bases its fees on boat size. A typical average would be about $400 a month in berthing fees, Sunderland said.

“We certainly have tried to make the wharf better for the users. The fees remain high. Although we get government support for our major projects … ongoing maintenance on a facility this size … is a big issue.”

Last year, lobster boats from four districts fished from the Port of Digby, which is uncommon, said Sunderland.

“Berthage has increased every year over the last five years. We’ve never turned anybody away.”

A series of federally funded floating docks installed this year at the public wharf is now fully used.

Digby also recently installed a maintenance dock so local boat crews can work on their vessels.

A public hoist was also installed recently. Vessels can use it to load gear, bait and other items.

“It has (had) an incredibly high use,” said Sunderland.

The wharf and floating dock now has electrical power for all vessels.

“When we first got involved down here, there might have been under a dozen working (electrical) outlets on the wharf,” Sunderland said.

Digby is a marine clearance port with Canada Customs. Canada Border Services officers from Yarmouth clear international vessels arriving in Digby. The officers come to Digby when asked.

Two cruise ships have visited Digby in recent years.

“Both of those have been larger ships that anchored (offshore) and tendered passengers in,” said Sunderland. “The future, we really believe, is going to be based on continuing to diversify.”

The association purchased the wharf for $1.2 million in December 2007 with help from Ottawa in securing loans to be repaid over 15 years.

Before that, the Maritime Harbours Society had owned the wharf. The society got it for a dollar in 1999 when the federal government divested it.

Before the wharf again became public in 2007, fishermen had complained it was falling apart and little upkeep was done.

Story by: Brian Medel

The Halifax Chronicle Herald

August 19, 2013