Forgive the people at MacDonnell Group of Halifax if they’ve picked up a new interest in the music of singer Susan Aglukark or in the hockey career of the NHL’s Jordin Tootoo.

Forgive them as well for all the talk about polar bears.

These are all trademarks of the northern Manitoba port community of Churchill.

It’s one of the Arctic’s essential transportation centres, and the Halifax engineering group, which also has offices in Portland, Maine, has just been awarded a contract for the development of a master plan for its port.

“It’s a significant undertaking: This is a port that is part of an essential lifeline to the North,” Jeffrey Monroe said from the firm’s Portland office on Wednesday. “It presents challenges because of a very short operating season.”

There are no roads leading to Churchill, which is known as the Polar Bear Capital of the World.

The community has a population about 1,000 and the only way to get there is by air or rail, except in summer, when ships can navigate Hudson Bay.

“It is part of a significant transportation corridor for Manitoba, and part of our job will be to help determine what infrastructure investments should be made,” said Mr. Monroe.

The contract for the development of a master plan for the port was awarded to MacDonnell Group by the Hudson Bay Port Co.

Among other things, the MacDonnell Group will look at the infrastructure, operating efficiency, port layout, navigational issues and seasonal shipping activities. It is all part of the Manitoba International Gateway Strategy.

Built in 1927, it is the primary grain port for the Canadian plains and the Arctic supply centre for communities on Hudson Bay.

Mr. Monroe said the contract is part of an expansion of the group’s marine planning services.

He said the Port of Churchill undertaking complements other MacDonnell Group projects such as the Port of Yarmouth master plan and the Keltic Petrochemicals Marine Terminal operations plan.

MacDonnell Group describes itself as a multi-disciplinary engineering and management firm that handles project management; civil, marine and municipal infrastructure design; maritime security training; land development; and cultural productions.