By Tom Peters

Technological advancements and facility expansion continue to drive major investment in infrastructure improvements at Port of Halifax. “A key part of the Halifax Port Authority’s role is reinvesting in port infrastructure to ensure our Port remains highly competitive on all fronts,” said HPA President and CEO Karen Oldfield. “Despite global and local economic volatility in recent years HPA, along with private sector partners and government partners, has continually reinvested in key areas of the business with major emphasis on container and breakbulk cargo facilities,” she said. “This past year was a record for reinvestment with HPA spending $50 million. The support of the Government of Canada on two major projects, worth over $100 million, has been key, as has been the support of private sector operators investing in terminal equipment to keep Halifax on the leading edge,” she added. “As well,” she added, “the use of innovative technology continues to be important in Halifax with such projects as the air gap and weather buoy technology projects which provide our customers with real time, solid data that gives them confidence in calling the port of Halifax.”

Recently a $35 million expansion at the South End Container Terminal was completed, co-funded by HPA and the federal government. Work has been underway for two years on an 80-metre extension of the pier, a new truck marshalling yard and new electronic gate facilities with the final piece of that overall upgrade being the addition of two new cranes. Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, parent company of terminal operator Halterm Container Terminal Limited, is investing in the two new super post-Panamax cranes at a cost of approximately $20 million. The two cranes, built by ZPMC in Shanghai, arrived in August and have added to the terminal’s ability to handle the largest container ships afloat. The cranes are 131 feet high and have a reach of nearly 200 feet, which is approximately 22 containers wide. The two new cranes give the terminal a complement of eight cranes.

At the Port’s Fairview Cove Container Terminal, operated by Ceres, HPA has begun initial work on the extension of that pier by 35 to 40 metres. The extension is timely with the June start-up of the G6 Alliance’s new AZX service to Asia and the larger vessels, up to 7,500 TEUs, being employed in that service. “The Ceres’ project is part our ongoing capital work to ensure Halifax maintains its competitive facilities and has the flexibility at all terminals to take multiple bigger ships,” said HPA spokesperson Michele Peveril.

Ceres Senior Vice-President and Terminal Manager Calvin Whidden sees the extension as essential. The length of some of the G6 Alliance vessels is 320 metres and if simultaneously docked with one of ACL’s ro/ro vessels, the pier is presently too short, said Whidden. The extension, expected to be completed by the end of this year, will ensure the required terminal space. The project includes dredging so water depth is 16.8 metres to match the rest of the pier plus the extension of 50-foot and 100-foot gauge crane rails.

As vessels move up the harbour to Fairview Cove, they pass under two bridges which do not currently present any height restrictions as larger vessels are often wider yet lower. However, as part of long-term planning, there are two projects in the works that will assist continued safe passage. The Halifax Harbour Bridges authority will begin re-decking the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge in 2015 and in the next 10 to 15 years a similar project at the MacKay Bridge will be required.

HPA will provide $1.5 million toward the $150 million Macdonald Bridge construction project for the required engineering to raise the bridge deck at the time of re-decking. The raising of the bridge deck will increase the air gap by approximately 1.5 metres. Air draft under the Macdonald Bridge now is consistently around 51 metres. Minimum required air gap is 1.35 metres. There is consistent vessel transit under the bridges of 47 to 48 metres. “The reality is the current bridge height allows vessels, even the new G6 7,500 TEU vessels, to pass underneath. What is interesting is ships going to Ceres at 7,500 TEUs are actually a metre and half lower in height than some of the 5,700 TEU vessels,” Peveril said.

To further enhance safety, the federal government and HPA will cost-share an integrated port logistics system and air gap system. The enhanced air gap system will enable the port to identify exactly the ship clearance under the spans. Cost of the project is estimated at $660,000.

On the breakbulk side of the Port’s operation, the $73-million modernization and expansion of Richmond Terminals continues, and is scheduled for completion in 2014. The crib work has been completed with infilling remaining to be done. Shed modernization at Pier 9B will give the terminal 80,000 square feet of enclosed cargo space. At Pier 9C the installation of water, sewer and electrical services is continuing. At the Port’s cruise terminal, the Port Authority and the federal and provincial governments are investing $10 million in shore power. When completed in 2014, cruise ships with the capability will be able to turn off their engines and plug into the power grid to access the electrical support they need while in port. The next step in bringing shore power to the port is establishing a power rate for vessels wanting to access shore power. An application is currently before the province’s Utility and Review Board. Shore power technology is an effective way to reduce air diesel emissions.

A further advancement in safety for all vessels using the port will be the installation this fall of an inshore weather buoy at Herring Cove. The buoy will transmit real-time, high resolution weather and wave information, assisting the Port Authority and other stakeholders to better forecast port operating conditions. The data will also be used for education and scientific research. The Canadian Marine Pilots Association has been focused on getting this buoy installed for the past 10 years. Others involved include the Halifax Marine Research Institute, Marine Environmental, Observation, Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) and the Canadian Coast Guard. The project cost is estimated at $366,000. Funding will come from the federal and provincial governments. The Atlantic Pilotage Authority and HPA will pay annual maintenance costs estimated at $120,000 for 10 years.