By Tom Peters

The Port of Halifax is purpose-built to handle anything that can be shipped by sea, truck or rail. With deep berths, plenty of laydown area and experienced, dedicated labour, heavy lift project cargo facilities at the Port of Halifax are becoming go-to locations for those involved in Atlantic Canada’s planned or developing mega projects worth an estimated $125 billion.

In the second quarter of 2016, non-containerized cargo tonnage through Port of Halifax facilities increased 29.2 per cent to 161,859MT over the same period in 2015; for the first half of 2016, non-containerized tonnage jumped 35.2 per cent to 226,896MT.

Richmond Terminals and Ocean Terminals are the port’s main facilities for handling non-containerized cargo and accommodate the majority of the port’s non-containerized tonnage. However, the Fairview Cove Container Terminal operated by Ceres-Halifax and the South End Container Terminal operated by Halterm Container Terminal Ltd. also handle ro/ro cargo for such carriers as ACL and Oceanex. The Port of Sheet Harbour, with facilities owned by the province of Nova Scotia but managed by the Halifax Port Authority, is another option available for non-containerized and heavy lift cargoes.

“Things have been going very well in the first seven months of this year at both Richmond and Ocean terminals,” said Patrick Bohan, the Halifax Port Authority’s Director of Supply Chain Solutions. “Non-containerized cargo tonnage is up so it has been a good season.”

Bohan singled out the energy sector as one industry that has taken advantage of the Richmond facility which completed a $65-million upgrade and expansion in late 2014.

“We have been supporting offshore Nova Scotia energy projects in multiple ways,” he said. Richmond Terminals has played the role of home base for a number of companies operating vessels in support of offshore oil and gas exploration and was the preparation site for a major tidal turbine project.”

Cape Sharp Tidal, in partnership with OpenHydro, brought a 1,000 MT turbine into Halifax on a purpose-built barge for preparation work prior to being lowered into the Bay of Fundy as part of a power generation project.

Sarah Dawson, spokesperson for Cape Sharp Tidal, said Richmond was a good choice for the turbine because of the terminal’s availability and the depth of water at the berth. The turbine was at Pier 9C which has a minimum water depth of 13.7 metres, or 45 feet.

Irving Shipbuilding was another of several companies that found Richmond Terminal to be beneficial to its needs.

The Richmond Terminal has assisted Irving Shipbuilding in building the most modern shipyard in North America, said Irving spokesman Sean Lewis. “Over the last three years, Irving Shipbuilding made significant upgrades in its Halifax Shipyard facilities, investing $350 million to create a modern, innovative and cost-effective shipbuilding facility,” he said.

The very first vessel to arrive at the refurbished Richmond Terminal on Oct. 14, 2014 was carrying two new cranes for use inside Irving’s recently constructed ultra-hall production building, where Canada’s new naval combat vessels are being built, said Lewis.

The cranes, each of which weighs 250 tonnes and has a lifting capacity of up to 200 tonnes, span close to the full height and width of the new production building (47 metres tall X 55 metres wide) and are used to move large pieces and mega blocks that form the vessels.

Irving utilized Richmond Terminal’s heavy lift capability to offload the cranes, which were supplied by KoneCranes of Houston, and move them to the shipyard.

According to Bohan, “A series of unique jobs have gone through Richmond, and every time something is done there, the service providers step up and generate more ideas in trade. It is a good way to grow, doing high-value, specialized work.”

At Ocean Terminals there has been a lot of “wheeled equipment” of late moving over the terminal, said Bohan.

“Agriculture machinery, forestry and mining industry machinery,” and other different cargo you don’t see every day, he said, citing a Liebherr crane as an example of heavy equipment that arrived with extensive boom and counter weights.

Bohan said moving various products over Ocean is beneficial for local providers involved in both truck and rail, and is good for various companies who look for port reliability when importing or exporting products.

Having both Richmond and Ocean terminals also gives port users options.

“With a number of people we talked to recently, we have shown them both facilities to give them that comfort factor,” said Bohan. This is especially important for those companies looking at future projects. “In those situations where the date is not yet finalized, we are able to present a range of options and show the customer the different ways we are able to meet their needs,” he said. “It’s a good position to be in.”

Having many regional mega projects on the books also bodes well for the Port of Halifax and its non-containerized capabilities.

Close to half of the estimated $125 billion in mega projects identified by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) are in Nova Scotia, “Which is exciting for the entire marine sector in Halifax,” explained Bohan. “Many components come in from overseas, and most of these projects require marine support. There are a lot opportunities.”