By Tom Peters

The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council has identified $115 billion in megaprojects either underway or on the books for Atlantic Canada. It is activity in various industry sectors that has the potential to boost the cargo fortunes of Port of Halifax. Many of these projects will especially need marine support and that “will be good for us in Halifax and for Port of Sheet Harbour where we are also involved,” said Patrick Bohan, Halifax Port Authority’s Manager of Business Development. Halifax has a strong reputation for handling general cargo with an intricate infrastructure and an experienced labour force. “We are pleased that between ro/ro, breakbulk and heavy-lift we do very well here,” said Bohan.

Some of the projects identified in the APEC list include the $25 billion Irving Shipbuilding contract to produce combat vessels for Canada, mining ventures in Newfoundland and Labrador, oil and gas exploration off the east coast plus other energy projects, etc. “So we can be looking at components for windmills and shipbuilding, mining equipment, modules for job sites, compressors, generators, all sorts of material requirements for production,” Bohan added. “The port (Halifax) is in the intersection of all these projects and we are joined with overseas liner services, a rail network and all the things needed to bring things here and move them to the job sites,” he said.

Rail connection is especially convenient for long distance heavy hauls to sites like Fort McMurray. “We have the infrastructure to take on these special cargoes, the marshalling area and we have got the workforce experienced in doing it so it works very well,” said Bohan. The port uses Ocean Terminals as it main breakbulk facility, but in 2014 will add a rejuvenated and expanded Richmond Terminal to the mix which will greatly enhance the port’s ability to handle these types of cargo. The $73-million project will include a five acre laydown area, 1,500 feet of new dock space, an expanded warehouse for cargo and all serviced by rail and truck. “We look forward to that coming on stream. The timing will be excellent with (mega) projects ramping up on a number of fronts, not just at Irving Shipbuilding but also increasing activity with Shell and BP exploring off Nova Scotia,” Bohan said. In addition, mining giant Vale is expected to start moving refined product from its Long Harbour processing facility in Newfoundland through the port of Halifax. It will be warehoused in Armour’s facilities in Burnside and then shipped to international markets.

On the bulk side, Halifax Grain Elevator has been experiencing a flurry of rail activity. With the changes in how western grain growers market their products since the Canadian Wheat Board lost its monopoly a year ago, rail has been regaining its popularity to move grain. Bohan said he is also pleased with the fact a new wheat trader has come to the Port to export product in containers. “A Canadian trading company we brought in containerizes wheat there (grain elevator). It is an interesting niche trade we have been working on,” he said. The grain was railed to Halifax, stored at the grain elevator, was sold and shipped in 20 foot containers at 27 tonnes per container. The grain elevator has a special facility for loading grain into containers. “So it is going as we envisioned it,” Bohan added.

Wood pellets from Viridis Energy Inc.’s mill in Upper Musquodoboit are expected to be exported to Europe through the grain elevator’s facilities this fall. The mill got back into production under new owners and is planning to move about 25,000 tonnes of pellets later this year. Once full production is achieved, the mill anticipates production of up to 100,000 tonnes annually for export through the facilities of Port of Halifax.

In 2012, Halifax Port Authority signed a lease with the province to operate and market Port of Sheet Harbour. The Authority’s aggressive marketing campaign has started to pay dividends for the breakbulk facility. “There was a flurry of activity in August and another vessel scheduled in October,” said Bohan. He anticipates there will be some general cargo exported through the port on “one of the biggest general cargo ships ever in that harbour,” he said.