By Tom Peters
Halifax Port Authority (HPA) has taken over responsibility for the operation of the Nova Scotia Port of Sheet Harbour and will promote the port’s assets in a number of overseas markets, said George Malec, the Authority’s Vice-President of Business Development and Operations.
“What we are looking at is an integrated strategy for Atlantic-based exporters because this is all about truck traffic,” Mr. Malec said in an interview. “We are looking at the truck-driving radius distance to calculate the market for the regional market, primarily Nova Scotia but also Atlantic Canada and conceivably a little past that. In terms of international markets, we are looking at project, breakbulk, heavy-lift, and biomass markets primarily into Northern Europe, the Mediterranean basin with Turkey as a focal point, and the Caribbean,” he said.
Malec said Turkey is a focus because it has a lot of products, including steel and breakbulk, moving through its ports. “We believe Turkey is also well-positioned to be an important cargo transshipment area for the East Coast of North America,” he said.
A connection with Turkey has already been established with Sheet Harbour’s only customer, Northern Fibre. The Nova Scotia company exports an average of 10 shiploads of wood chips annually, with the majority of its exports going to Turkey, Malec said.
HPA recently held a community open house at the port to discuss plans and opportunities for Sheet Harbour, which is approximately 90 minutes East of Halifax. The port facility is owned by the provincial government and is administered by its agency Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI). NSBI has signed a 10-year performance-based agreement with HPA with an option to renew. NSBI spokeswoman Cindy Roberts said the lease contains a revenue-sharing agreement “wherein NSBI will receive a percentage of the gross revenues generated by HPA” at Sheet Harbour. The port was formerly operated by North Atlantic Marine Terminals Ltd. Gaining a long-term lease at Sheet Harbour gives HPA more options for future growth in breakbulk and bulk cargoes, said Malec.
HPA’s land in Halifax is very limited for development and expansion, he said. Once the present expansion and development project at Richmond Terminals is complete, there will be no other land within HPA’s jurisdiction to expand for bulk and breakbulk cargoes.
“So this is very much a strategic decision made by the Board of the Port to expand its opportunities to handle more cargo of that nature,” Malec said.
Sheet Harbour has a 12-acre land space at the wharf and another 40 acres on which to expand. International Longshoremen’s Association Local 2065, also known as Bluewater Stevedores Union, is the main workforce although Malec said HPA would operate the facility as a common use terminal and other unions would be welcome.
Jason Josey, President of the 27-member Local 2065, said he is “very excited about Halifax Port Authority taking over. It will be a positive thing. The Port Authority has so much more reach. They are around the world.” He sees opportunities in various bulk cargoes such as coal, barite and iron ore and there is potential in some mining projects planned for the local area. “What would be ideal”, he said, “would be to have a manufacturer set up at the port, bring in raw materials by ship, produce products and then send those products to market by ship”.
The terminal has few assets but Malec said a stevedoring agreement has been signed with Logistec and “they are able to position the equipment that is required. So we already have a very well-established breakbulk and bulk partner with the right to operate through Sheet Harbour.”
HPA is putting together a capital-spending plan and a business plan with marketing strategies which “we will share with the Sheet Harbour governance committee and NSBI fairly shortly,” Malec said.