By Tom Peters

The pending Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and European Union, the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, Atlantic Canada mega projects in energy and mining plus a growing cruise industry, are all key drivers for ports tuning up their terminal facilities for future growth.

CETA, expected to begin taking effect in 2016, will eliminate 99 per cent of the trade tariffs between European Union members and Canada, and is expected to lead to increasing trade to and from Canada, while an expanded Panama Canal will allow larger container ships to travel between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, likely resulting in bringing more trade to East Coast ports. Port of Halifax is ideally situated to reap the benefits of all the anticipated major economic developments. Ashley Dinning, CEO of Halterm Container Terminal Ltd., operator of the Port’s Southend container terminal, says big ships and free trade with the European Union will be high on the agenda to boost Halterm’s fortunes.

Dinning says Halterm, wholly owned by Australian-based Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, is positioned and equipped to handle the biggest ships afloat. He says when the big ships come, 8,500-TEU capacity and larger, in the not too distant future, Halterm can play a role as a transshipment terminal. These larger vessels, unable to navigate the St. Lawrence River to Montreal because of insufficient draft, will unload and load containers at Halterm, using smaller feeder vessels to Montreal and other East Coast ports. In the immediate future, Dinning anticipates Halterm will play host to three and possibly four new services later this year increasing container lifts by approximately 40,000 by the end of 2015.

Halterm is more than equipped to handle the load. 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 and three Panamax cranes. The terminal, set on 29-hectares, has storage for 12,000 TEUs. With the four cranes operating, the terminal has the ability to do 130 lifts an hour. Halterm also handles, trailers, automotive, (ro/ro) and various project cargoes. The facility is equipped with 2,438 metres of on-dock rail track and has 483 electrical plus for refrigerated cargo. Trucks through the terminal utilize a state of the electronic gate and marshalling yard.

Calvin Whidden, Senior Vice-President at Ceres Terminals Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), and operator of the port’s Fairview Cove Terminal, also sees growth opportunities from a larger Panama Canal and CETA. Whidden believes that with larger ships being able to transit the Panama Canal it could lead to more lines looking to develop round the world services. “Some vessels will go to New York and turn around and go back again. But if they are headed across the Atlantic, they are going by our back door (on the Great Circle Route) which is a big advantage for us. We have lots of space and equipment and we are set for new growth and new business and we are looking for it,” he said. The majority of cargo moving through the Ceres terminal is from Europe, so Whidden sees potential growth because of CETA. “Europe has been our major trading partner for many years so to put anything in place to make that easier and more cost effective will help us, so I do see an opportunity to grow the business. It is not going to be overnight but over time,” he said. In 2014 Ceres handled approximately 224,000 TEUs or about 40 per cent of its capacity. It has approximately 720 metres of berth space with water depths of 16.8 metres. The 28-hectare facility presently accommodates container vessels with capacities up to 7,500 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. In addition to container cargo, the terminal also handles ro/ro and heavy lift cargoes. Ceres is also equipped with a high-tech marshalling yard for truck traffic.

Completion of the $65 million upgrade and expansion of Halifax Port Authority-owned and operated Richmond Terminal combined with the busy Ocean Terminal give Port of Halifax excellent facilities to increase its breakbulk and general cargo business. Halifax Port Authority spokesman Lane Farguson said HPA has been aggressively marketing its breakbulk facilities in Europe and the U.S. “The nice thing about having these two terminals is they complement each other very well. Richmond is deeper at 13.7 metres and has 450 metres of new dock so it can accommodate a variety of new and oversized cargoes,” he said. The terminal has ondock rail, large shed storage and laydown area plus has good access to major highways. 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. Ocean, as well, is served by rail and trucks.

As common use terminals, they are available to any licensed stevedoring company and are mainly used by Empire Stevedoring and Logistec Stevedoring. In addition to Ocean and Richmond Terminals, HPA operates the Sheet Harbour Terminal, about 90 minutes east of Halifax. HPA has invested in number of basic upgrades at the terminal which features a 152 metre (500 feet) berthing wharf, 36.5 metres wide with 10.3 metre draught.  There is also an office building, coverall building and gatehouse located within the 5 hectare fenced common user area. Farguson said Sheet Harbour, which has very good highway access, has been an excellent terminal for oversized cargo moves. This past summer the terminal has been busy handling large wind mill components.

Across Halifax Harbour, CN’s Autoport has come off a record year handling more than 220,000 vehicles in 2014. Approximately 200 people work at the 41-hectare Eastern Passage facility which receives automobiles from manufacturers in North America, Europe, Japan and Korea. With its own 262-metre marine dock and 5,574-square metres of service bay area, Autoport offers a full range of services where vehicles can undergo any required maintenance or inspection before distribution.

CN’s Mark Hallman said CN built a new dock facility approximately six years ago designed for future vessels. The rail siding was also expanded in 2013, increasing the spot capacity to 47 cars from the prior 29 cars. Autoport is served by truck and rail. Vehicles arriving at Autoport are primarily destined for markets along CN’s eastern and Mid-Western U.S. networks.

Mulgrave Terminal located at the Strait of Canso toward the eastern end of the province, is situated in one of the deepest natural harbours in the world and is the main common-user terminal in the Strait. Owned and operated by Strait of Canso Superport Corporation, it positions itself as mainly a bulk terminal and in 2014 handled approximately 200,000 tonnes of commodities that included road salt, aggregates, gypsum and wood chips. Superport CEO Tim Gilfoy says the terminal continues to pursue cargoes destined for some of the mega projects now underway in Atlantic Canada such as Emera’s Muskrat Falls hydro project and mining projects in Labrador. “We continue as well to pursue opportunities in the offshore oil and gas industry, but it’s certainly good that we can handle range of bulk activities,” Gilfoy said. Mulgrave Terminal has water depths ranging between 8.5 metres and 10 metres at the dock, 500 metres of berth space with a paved laydown area. A key asset is 3,252-square metres of warehouse space. Superport Corp. is working on a new governance model which it hopes will see harbour dues reinvested in port facilities. The terminal has good highway access and is in close proximity to rail.

The port of Sydney has one main common user terminal, Sydney Marine Terminal, and a number of privately operated terminals. The bulk of the terminal’s business is the cruise terminal which, with its Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion, hosted 65 ship visits, 82,599 passengers and 37,834 crew in 2014. Bernadette MacNeil, Manager, Cruise Marketing and Development for Sydney Port Corporation which operates the terminal on behalf of owner Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM), anticipates another strong year in 2015. John Whalley, CBRM’s Manager of Economic Development, said future plans call for an extension to the terminal. “There is an expansion proposal that has been submitted for the consideration of the provincial and federal funding organizations,” he said. Whalley said that in addition to cruise, the terminal is used to unload petroleum products which are transported by pipeline to a storage facility in north-end Sydney. It is also a facility for a variety of vessels such as the Coast Guard and has the potential to do some types of breakbulk and even bulk commodities. The pier is approximately 274 metres in length with a water depth of 12 metres.

Port of Saint John, NB, can handle a wide array of cargoes at its various terminals. Everything from containers, to scrap metal, forest products, potash, salt, petroleum products, molasses, fish oil and cruise passengers passes through the port. Andrew Dixon, Saint John Port Authority’s Senior Vice-President of Planning and Development, sees potential growth in several cargo sectors but particularly in containers. Two lines, Tropical and MSC, call at the Rodney Container Terminal which boasts two berths, 369 metres and 291 metres in length, over 12 metres of water depth and accessed by both road and rail.

Since MSC began calling the port two and half years ago, container volumes have doubled, said Dixon. In 2014 the terminal handled 89,615 TEUs, up 17 per cent over 2013. MSC ships calling the port vary in size with the largest just over 4,200 TEUs.

Dixon said present port infrastructure has been able to accommodate those ships but the port is getting to the point where it is contemplating making changes with an eye to larger cranes and ondock equipment. The Port Authority has plans to invest $205 million over seven years to modernize its west side container terminal.

In addition to container growth, Dixon expects more growth in bulk cargo at the 290-metre Barrack Point Potash Terminal. Potash Corp., which operates the terminal, has completed its new mine in Sussex, and has mined a considerable amount of salt from the site in preparation for potash extraction. The salt, 473,129 tonnes in 2014, has been exported through the terminal. “They (Potash Corp) will be going into full production with the new mine which will mean an increase in export volumes of potash in 2015,” Dixon said. Volumes in 2014 hit 628,520 tonnes.

Marco Polo and Diamond Jubilee terminals handle the port’s thriving cruise business. The port is expecting 62 cruise ship visits in 2015 including its first homeport business. American-based Blount Small Cruise Adventures will operate two 10-day cruise itineraries between Saint John and Portland, Maine. Other terminals in the port such as Navy Island Terminal, operated by Logistec Stevedoring and Lower Cove Terminal, are well suited for bulk, breakbulk and project cargoes. A free trade deal with the European Union could make those terminals busier, said Dixon.

Port of Charlottetown, with its common user terminal, is putting focus on building its cruise business, said Corryn Morrissey, with the Charlottetown Harbour Authority, soon to be rebranded Port Charlottetown. The terminal, which has a 13.5M water depth, has two berths, 183 metres and 150 metres in length. In addition to the cruise business, the terminal handles commodities such as aggregates (203,000 tonnes in 2014), sand, petroleum products and agricultural fertilizer. Morrissey said port redevelopment is underway that is aimed at cruise. The $4-$5 million project will see a redevelopment of all the land-based infrastructure which will make the area more welcoming to cruise passengers and make it easier to move passengers to and from the terminal. The project is expected to be completed by mid-summer of this year.

The port handled 64 vessel calls, 85,092 passengers and 66,732 crewmembers in 2014. There are 77 cruise calls scheduled for this season which Morrissey says will be a record for the port. Those visits are expected to bring about 91,000 passengers.

Oceanex Inc., a major transportation company and short sea operator, continues to operate the main two terminals in St. John’s, Newfoundland, one of which handles containers, while the other handles ro/ro and general cargo. Oceanex operates the feeder service between St. John’s and Halifax and St. John’s and Montreal with three vessels. Glenn Etchegary, Oceanex’s Senior Vice-President of Operations, said Oceanex handles over 100,000 TEUs annually, both import and export cargo, at the terminal and moved 36,000 vehicles in 2014. In addition to vehicles through the ro/ro terminal, the carrier moves heavy lift and project cargo. The container terminal has 110 electrical plugs to accommodate temperature controlled cargo. Total berthage at the terminal is 620 metres.

Oceanex has opened an inland terminal which acts as a distribution centre for cargo pre-staged prior to distribution. Etchegary sees no growth at the marine terminal in the short term but in the long term, growth and investment in the marine terminal will hinge on Oceanex’s plans to develop a transportation centre on a nearby 33.5 hectare site the company owns. The Oceanex connection is considered Newfoundland and Labrador’s economic umbilical cord for imports and exports.

The port of Corner Brook, on the western side of Newfoundland, has one versatile common use terminal which accommodates the cruise business, bulk and project cargo, as well as the Labrador ferry which utilizes Corner Brook as its island port of call for service from Blanc Sablon, QC during the winter months. The 362-metre long berth which has a 10 metre water depth, has a high capacity fixed pedestal crane which can be used for unloading/unloading cargo, including containers. Nora Fever, Business Development Manager for the Corner Brook Port Corporation (CBPC), says the corporation sees a great deal of growth potential in the development of the oil and gas industry in Western Newfoundland. The terminal is well suited as a supply and service centre based on its geographic location, proximity to major shipping routes and year-round accessibility. Fever said CBPC is also interested in potential inbound and outbound cargo related to mega projects such as Emera’s Muskrat Falls hydro project, and mining projects in Labrador.

On New Brunswick’s north shore, Port of Belledune is considering the construction of a new deep water terminal to add to its four terminals already in operation. Jenna MacDonald, Director of Marketing for Belledune Port Authority, said the plan is to build a finger pier with a focus on the oil exploration industry and bulk commodities. Those bulk commodities could come in the form of aggregates from some quarry projects near the port. The Port Authority presently operates a roll on/roll off and general cargo terminal with the other three terminals operated by Glencore Canada, a metal smelting and refining company, New Brunswick Power, and Eastern Canada Stevedoring. The Authority-operated terminal is 445 metres long with a 100-metre wide apron and sits adjacent to 24 hectares of land.

MacDonald said Belledune is also excited about another project underway. Chaleur Terminals Inc., a privately owned New Brunswick company with connections in Alberta, is planning to build a three-million barrel capacity petroleum tank farm at the port.

The proposed project includes a low speed railway system, a terminal accommodating eight 150,000-barrel steel storage tanks, and a three-kilometre pipeline running from the tank farm to the marine terminal and ships for export to global markets. The facility will also be able to receive petroleum products from ships or barges.