By Tom Peters

Major infrastructure investments at the south end container terminal in the Port of Halifax have bolstered the port’s competitive position and strengthened its claim as an international gateway for container cargo to central Canada and the U.S. Midwest. Terminal operator PSA Halifax has recently commissioned a new super post Panamax ship-to-shore gantry crane, the largest in Eastern Canada, and Halifax Port Authority (HPA) has completed a $35 million, 134-metre berth extension creating an 800-metre long pier. The pier can now accommodate two ultra-class container vessels simultaneously.

Completion of the extension and arrival of the crane, built by China-based ZPMC and which can reach across 24 containers, could not have been more timely as ultra-class ships have started to call the port.

In September, CMA CGM Brazil, the largest containerized cargo vessel to call at a Canadian port, arrived in Halifax, and berthed at PA Halifax. The ship has a length of 366 metres, a beam of 51 metres and a 15,072 TEU capacity. PSA Halifax is the only port in Eastern Canada that can accommodate these ultra-class vessels. Earlier in the summer, the terminal handled cargo from CMA CGM T. Jefferson and CMA CGM A. Lincoln, both with capacities in excess of 14,000 TEUs.

Kim Holtermand, CEO and Managing Director, PSA Halifax, said it was a great honor for the terminal to welcome CMA Brazil CGM. “The arrival of this ship soon after the delivery of our newest and largest crane demonstrates the benefits of our step-wise development of PSA Halifax,” Holtermand said. “With the support of our committed workforce and staff, Halifax Port Authority, CN, and our broad customer-base and stakeholders, the call is testament of PSA Halifax’s ambition, opportunity and the great resolve within this port to be alongside creating lasting and sustainable growth.”

Captain Allan Gray, HPA’s President and CEO, said, “The arrival of this new crane at PSA Halifax is a significant piece of the overall strategy to ensure the Port remains an efficient and reliable deep-water international gateway. I congratulate the entire team at PSA Halifax for all of the work and planning that went into making this a reality.”

HPA’s pier extension followed months of study to determine the best options in preparation for the arrival of the larger ships. Actual dredging for the project began in late 2018 and after some delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, construction of the extension was completed in September of this year with finishing touches such as lighting and public walkways being completed in October. Greg Baker, the Port’s Vice-President of Assets and Infrastructure and lead engineer on the extension project, said the Covid-19 pandemic slowed the construction process and adjustments were made to allow for a safe working environment. However, Baker said that at no time was construction halted altogether.

Baker said that in addition to the physical extension “we practically doubled the electrical capacity for cranes, not just for the new one, but for cranes into the future. We also built tie down facilities for where the crane can be stowed in a hurricane. There was a lot of underground work which you don’t see, and it all had to be done in the middle of an operating container pier, so it was challenging, but it all worked out,” he said.

Capt. Gray said the Port is excited about the extension’s completion. “The construction team has done an excellent job navigating expected challenges like inclement weather and they did it during a global health emergency that continues to impact just about every aspect of life as we know it,” he said. “The completion of this project comes at the same time we are seeing the first of the 15,000+ TEU Ultra Class container vessels calling at our port and it will help ensure we remain a competitive international gateway which will provide tremendous benefit to national trade corridors and the local economy,” he added.