By Tom Peters

Atlantic Canada’s marine terminals are critical in maintaining a consistent cargo flow to and from Central Canada and the American Midwest, connecting industry and commerce to regional and global markets. Port of Halifax has been a cargo hub for decades and is the largest container port in the Atlantic region, handling nearly a half million TEUs annually.

The Fairview Cove container terminal located in the northern portion of the harbour in Bedford Basin and the Southend container terminal, both under the jurisdiction of Halifax Port Authority (HPA), are run by private operators under long-term leases.

Ceres Terminals Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), operates the Fairview facility and Halterm Container Terminal Ltd., owned by Australian based Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, operates the Southend terminal.

Opened in 1981, the Fairview terminal, which handles approximately 230,000 TEUs a year, was recently extended by nearly 40 metres and now has approximately 720 metres of berth space with water depths of 16.8 metres. The facility presently accommodates container vessels with capacities up to 8,500 TEUs but can service larger vessels if required. The terminal is served by three post-Panamax cranes and two Panamax cranes and boasts 3,657 metres of on-dock rail that offers double-stack service. The facility also has 500 electrical plugs for temperature controlled cargo and has storage capacity for over 12,000 TEUs on its 28-hectare site. In addition to container cargo, the terminal also handles ro/ro and heavy lift cargoes. A recent upgrade to the terminal’s truck marshalling yard has vastly increased Ceres’ ability to handle the flow of trucks. Ceres’ Senior Vice-President, Calvin Whidden, the terminal’s General Manager, says the terminal has a good grasp on Canadian cargo but has to remain vigilant because other East Coast ports are also competing for that business.

He sees growth opportunities for his terminal in Europe, Asia and the Far East into Canada and the U.S. Midwest. “I see Halifax as the main gateway on the entire East Coast (for cargo). I see two facilities doing that, and we are one of them. So I think we play an extremely important role. We have lots of capacity and lots of water depth and the ships are getting bigger so we are set to take advantage of all that. Growth is not going where I would like to see it but I’m confident the vessels (we handle) will be replaced by larger vessels making more cargo and more trade through Halifax,” he said.

The port’s Southend terminal is a 29-hectare facility located near the mouth of the harbour and can serve the largest container ships afloat, says Halterm CEO and Managing Director Ashley Dinning. “We have no bridge or air draft issues so any size ship in the world can be serviced at Halterm. The only other port on the East Coast able to do that is Norfolk,” he said. The terminal’s main berth is 664 metres in length with a side berth of 394 metres. Water depths are over 16 metres. The terminal handles in excess of 200,000 TEUs annually and has four super post Panamax cranes (can reach across 23 containers) and three Panamax cranes. “Our position is we are the lowest cost operation in the port,” said Dinning, adding the terminal has the ability to turn ships around fast, being able to work the vessels with the four super post-Panamax cranes. With the four cranes operating, Dinning said the terminal has the ability to do 130 lifts an hour and with a fast turn-around, vessels can steam slower to their next port, thus saving fuel. The terminal also handles, trailers, automotive, (ro/ro) and various project cargos. The facility is equipped with 8,000 feet of on-dock rail track and has 483 electrical plus for refrigerated cargo. The terminal’s truck flow has been enhanced with the recent opening of a new state of the electronic gate and marshalling yard. Halterm presently handles container ships up to 6,000 TEUs but Dinning anticipates larger vessels, up to 8,500 TEUs, will soon be calling, possibly before May.

The terminal spokesman said Halterm has had discussions over the past six months with some of the major container carriers on the topic of Halterm being a transshipment hub. “We are ideally positioned to relay cargo. A large ship can come in here and relay cargo for feeder vessels,” he said. Dinning noted there are transshipment hubs in the South Atlantic and “larger carriers would dearly like to have something on this side of the North Atlantic.” The terminal, set on 29-hectares, has storage for 12,000 TEUs .

The Port Authority also has two major common use terminals, Ocean Terminal and Richmond Terminal, that handle bulk, breakbulk, some containers and heavy lift and project cargos. As common use terminals, they are available to any licensed stevedoring company and are mainly used by Empire Stevedoring and Logistec Stevedoring.

Ocean Terminal is comprised of several piers and numerous berths including the Halifax Grain Elevator pier. Berths range in length from 142 metres to nearly 213 metres and water depths range from 10 metres to 14 metres. Patrick Bohan, HPA’s manager of business development, said terminal facilities are served by on-dock rail which is a “big part of the equation there. It is one of the few (common use) terminals where you have Class 1 rail access at a ship’s side. You can have a big heavy piece lifted from ship right on to a specially designed rail car. You can’t do that in too many places,” he said. And as a common use facility, he pointed out that a client has the flexibility to decide which stevedoring company it may wish to use. The terminal also has over 18,581 square metres of shed space for storage. With the grain elevator pier which has on-dock rail, the elevator can load ships at 2,000MT per hour. From a vessel, the maximum unloading capacity of the grain elevator is 700MT per hour, while with self-unloaders, the elevator can handle up to 1,200MT per hour.

Richmond Terminal, located near the harbour narrows, is undergoing a $73 million expansion and upgrade. Bohan said the work is expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter of this year. The present pier is being extended by an additional 457 metres and there will be a laydown area of approximately 2 hectares. A shed is being remodeled and expanded to give the facility approximately 7,432 square metres of storage space. The two hectare area will be one of the key points for Richmond, said Bohan, because it will give space for bulk commodities. “That will be a bit different from Ocean,” he said. The terminal has on-dock rail and truck access. Richmond will be ideal “for wind mill components, long pieces of steel and other fabrication that require over-dimensional trucking,” said Bohan, who also pointed out that “heavy lift ships like that area of the harbour because there is very little swell there, the water is very calm.”

Bohan said when the Richmond project is completed, “we will have two offerings (terminals) which is good because at certain times of the year there is a high demand.

The other thing is that to secure the business you have to be able to tell people not to worry because we have enough capacity to accommodate you year round.” What strengthens the cargo diversity of Port of Halifax is the CN-owned and operated Autoport, located across the harbour from Halifax at Eastern Passage. CN has 15 Autoport processing and distribution centres across North America with the 41-hectare Eastern Passage facility being one of the largest. It handles over 180,000 vehicles a year receiving automobiles from manufacturers in North America, Europe, Japan and Korea. With its own 262-metre marine dock, the Nova Scotia Autoport has 180 employees and 5,574-square metres of service bay area to offer a full range services to 20 automobile manufacturers where vehicles for can undergo any required maintenance or inspection before distribution. In addition to the loading dock, Autoport is also served by truck and rail. “Vehicles arriving at Eastern Passage are primarily destined for markets along CN’s eastern and Mid-western U.S. networks,” said CN’s Mark Hallman.

One port and terminal often overlooked in Nova Scotia’s marine infrastructure is the Mulgrave Terminal, owned and operated by the Strait of Canso Superport Corporation.

With water depths ranging between 8.5 metres and 10 metres, 500 metres of berth space with a paved laydown area and with its geographical location, the Mulgrave Terminal is ideally located to support the offshore oil and gas industry. “We are certainly well positioned for exploration activity off Sable Island,” said Superport CEO Tim Gilfoy, who added the terminal did some work in 2011 associated with the Deep Panuke project. One of the key assets of the terminal is its 3,252-square metres of warehouse space. Gilfoy said there are many projects ongoing or planned in Labrador which he believes holds potential for Mulgrave. “There is so much work going on in the Labrador area I think there could be a niche there for us. A lot of material required to be moved there can be assembled here, a barge load or a shipload can be assembled in our warehouse and moved there when weather permits,” he said. The Mulgrave Terminal is mainly a bulk transshipment facility and handles such commodities as salt, aggregates, gypsum and is fully equipped to be an offshore supply base. In 2013 the terminal handled 100,000 MT of materials. Although many of the ships that call the terminal have self-unloaders, loading equipment is available through private contractors at the terminal. The terminal has good highway access for truck operations.

Port of Sydney is served by a number of terminals, among the busiest are the Marine Atlantic Terminal in North Sydney and the Sydney Marine Terminal. Operated by Marine Atlantic, the ferry service is a vital link for both passengers and the commercial well-being of Newfoundland and Labrador. In the 2012-13 fiscal year, the ferry service transported 351,643 passengers, 123,609 passenger vehicles and 103,160 commercial vehicles of which 50 per cent were drop trailers, 47 per cent tractor trailers and 3 per cent straight trucks.

“For customers wishing to use our drop trailer service, they arrive at our terminal and drop off their trailer. Marine Atlantic has the appropriate infrastructure including shunt trucks and Roloc boxes to load and unload the trailers on and off our vessels. The customer can pick up the trailer on the other side,” said Marine Atlantic spokesperson Darrell Mercer.

Marine Atlantic, which was established as a crown corporation in 1986, and its predecessors, have been operating between North Sydney, NS and Port aux Basques, NL since 1898. The ferry company operates at three ports, Port aux Basques, North Sydney and Argentia (seasonal) and has four vessels, MV Blue Puttees, MV Highlanders, MV Atlantic Vision and MV Leif Ericson. Commercial customers comprise approximately 66 per cent of the business. Also in the terminals, Mercer said “we offer a commercial driver seating lounge in Port aux Basques. We will offer a similar facility upon completion of construction of our new terminal in North Sydney. This provides a designated area for commercial drivers who may wish to have a quiet area to rest and relax which is segregated from other passengers,” he said. “We are a hybrid service that must balance our customer mix and the needs of each group. Unlike cruise ships or container vessels that have one customer base, our vessels are designed to ship freight, but also offer significant passenger amenities to provide a pleasant, safe and comfortable travel experience,” Mercer said.

The Sydney Marine Terminal is owned by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) and operated by the Sydney Ports Corporation. The terminal’s main source of ship traffic is the cruise business with close to 70 cruise calls bringing over 100,000 passengers in 2013, said corporation General Manager Paul Carrigan. As support to the cruise industry, which generates nearly $30 million annually for Sydney and the region, the Joan Harriss Pavilion has a space for cruise passengers to gather, plus has meeting and convention space and an exhibition area that attracts business to the terminal.

Carrigan said the pier is approximately 274 metres in length and is the facility where ExxonMobil unloads fuel (312,000 kilolitres in 2013), which is piped to a tank farm. The dock also handles occasional breakbulk cargo. “We have loading and unloading equipment on site and available to us,” Carrigan said. The General Manager said he would like to see the terminal expand its cargo business, and that may happen in the not too distant future as CBRM ponders construction of a new 305-metre dock at the Marine Terminal. “In the future, breakbulk is what we want do and if we get the second berth that is what we will seek and also likely project cargo,” he said. Carrigan said the terminal has been getting lots of emails from European countries looking for ports for future use.

In northern New Brunswick on the south shore of Chaleur Bay, Port of Belledune has been promoting itself as a gateway to the Arctic and a good port to do business.

The port, owned by Belledune Port Authority, has four terminals, three of them presently under lease to private operators. Jenna MacDonald, the Authority’s Director of Marketing, said Terminal 3, known as the M.D. Young Terminal, was built in 1998 for general cargo. It is 445 metres long with a 100-metre wide apron and sits adjacent to 24 hectares of land. “Everything on the terminal is mobile and moves for many different cargoes,” she said. The facility, operated by Eastern Canada Stevedoring (Quebec Stevedoring), handles heavy-lift, bulk and breakbulk cargoes and has on-dock rail and truck access. “It is a very flexible facility,” said MacDonald. “It is a non-unionized facility with very little congestion, with room for growth, and a considerable area for storage and to stage cargo.” There are two warehouses on the terminal which can be used to store such commodities as wood pellets, and is located next to Terminal 4, mainly a ro/ro facility, operated by the Port Authority. Terminal 1 is under a long-term lease to Glencore. It was designed mainly for bulk cargo and to export zinc. “It is now used for imported lead, which is rich in silver” with the ore processed at the nearby smelter.

MacDonald said the “extremely automated terminal” would also be good for wood pellet storage as terminal conveyors are connected to a series of domes with rail service near the domes. The terminal is 155 metres long, 15 metres wide and has a water depth of 10.4 metres.

In St. John’s, the St. John’s Port Authority Terminal is operated by Oceanex Inc., a transportation company that operates vessels between St. John’s and Halifax and Montreal, plus it has a large fleet of trucks. The Oceanex connection is considered Newfoundland and Labrador’s economic umbilical cord for imports and exports. Oceanex handles in excess of 100,000 TEUs, more 30,000 automobiles and more than a million tonnes of cargo annually over its docks. In addition to containers, the terminal also handles other types of ro/ro cargo besides automobiles, heavy lift cargo and over dimensional project cargo. The terminal also boasts 110 electrical plugs to accommodate temperature controlled cargo, an important feature for a province that exports a lot of fish. The terminal has total berthage of 620 metres and is served by two Liebherr LHM400 mobile cranes. Glenn Etchegary, Oceanex’s Vice-President of Operations, said, “Operating the largest marine terminal in Newfoundland, we are Newfoundland’s link to the Atlantic Gateway.” He said the terminal’s location is also significant in that is located in the centre of the largest market “with more than 250,000 people within one hour.” Mr. Etchegary stressed the importance of the Oceanex service and terminal to Newfoundland. “Oceanex carries almost 50 per cent of all cargo to the province and has been deemed an essential service to Newfoundland by the Canada Industrial Relations Board in 2010,” he said.