By Tom Peters

Timing, they say, is everything and the opening of a refurbished and expanded Richmond Terminal in the port of Halifax in September, is right on cue. “It is the right facilities coming along at the right time. It is exciting,” said Patrick Bohan, Director, Supply Chain Solutions, Halifax Port Authority.

The new look Richmond Terminal, which will co-exist nicely with the port’s Ocean Terminal, is well positioned for breakbulk or general cargo. It is anticipated that there will be a considerable amount of these types of cargo moving through the region to supply the $122-billion worth of projects, either already underway or planned, identified for Atlantic Canada by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. “When we are looking at these projects for Atlantic Canada, this major project inventory excites us because the port of Halifax is central to the entire region and extremely well connected, whether it is by rail or by road or by vessel,” said Bohan, explaining that materials can be brought into Halifax from overseas, staged in Halifax and then moved to their destination.

In addition, Canada’s Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union, expected to be in place by late 2015, could also be a catalyst for further increased breakbulk and general cargo. “Here at Port of Halifax, we are fortunate that CETA is moving forward just as our infrastructure projects are reaching completion,” said Karen Oldfield, President and CEO, Halifax Port Authority. “Since 2011, the amount of investment that has taken place is incredible. Over $100 million going toward extended piers, new gates, cranes, truck marshaling facilities and all the work that’s taking place at Richmond Terminal. With our infrastructure projects reaching completion this year, we are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that will come with CETA.” She added that, “We have the capacity and we have the infrastructure to be Canada’s leading port with Europe. The European Union is the world’s largest economy. In terms of potential, CETA is huge,” she said.

The $65-million Richmond project, ongoing during the past few years and co-funded by Halifax Port Authority and the federal government, has added 1,500 feet of new dock; renovated and expanded dry shed space to 75,000 square feet with rail doors, rail access and truck access; has five acres of laydown area and is situated next to the CN Intermodal Terminal. Water depth at the pier is approximately 45 feet. It is an extremely flexible and well positioned facility with the ability to support everything from cargoes for the shipbuilding projects to container stuffing, and it will service the need for special projects such as ships arriving with wind mill blades or that type of cargo, said Bohan.

Initially there will be mobile cranes for yard movements, explained Bohan, “and most of the vessels that will come in to discharge will use their own ship’s gear to lift off components.” It would be similar to that which happens at the port of Sheet Harbour, which is operated by HPA, where a mobile crane is used to position cargo such as wind mill blades to be loaded onto trucks.

Bohan said another plus for Richmond is its access to the province’s major highway system which will make moving over-dimensional cargo by truck from the pier an easier process.

Of the mega projects which hold the most potential for Richmond, Bohan said he would start with Nova Scotia-based projects like the major combat vessels to be built under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy at nearby Halifax Shipyards. He also sees potential in support for offshore oil and gas exploration, the re-decking of Halifax’s Macdonald Bridge and construction of residential and commercial buildings.

Outside the province but still within the Atlantic region, Bohan sees cargo opportunities with Emera’s Muskrat Falls power project in Newfoundland and the associated Maritime Link between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia; the proposed Energy East Pipeline connecting western Canadian oil to Atlantic Canada; and present mining operations and increased mining in Labrador. “All of these things help make the overall economy more active,” Bohan said. “Materials have to be shipped in whether it’s cable or steel pipe. A lot of these commodities will be coming from overseas so there is a lot of opportunity.”

The opening of Richmond will help take the pressure off Ocean Terminal, also a breakbulk and general cargo terminal, which has been “bursting at the seams” while the work at Richmond is ongoing, said Bohan. Richmond will give Halifax more capacity to attract additional breakbulk and general cargo vessels and in doing so, create more employment.

Bohan said the Port has received several inquiries about its facilities and the benefits of its strategic location. “Often companies have to bring in containers from various points around the world as well as some supplies from mainland North America. So we see Halifax as a natural marshalling point to go North,” he said. He cited an  example of a company last year which brought in two or three ships with various materials that were staged in Halifax and shipped north by barge. “So we certainly have the capacity to marshal things here, whether it is Halifax or Sheet Harbour. And we are incredibly well connected with Asia, Europe and the United States, so Halifax is a natural jumping off point,” he said.