By Tom Peters

There is tremendous potential in Atlantic Canada for growth in the marine sector. Many of the mega projects identified by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC), now worth an estimated $129 billion in developing or planned spending, are connected to the marine industry. The current projects include offshore oil and gas development and exploration, mining and resource extraction, energy development and manufacturing. Some projects will require marine services support such as fabrication, provisioning and repair. Others will require the movement of parts and equipment for construction and ongoing maintenance, while others still will generate goods and products destined for other markets.

To be able to support a wide variety of opportunities and encourage growth in these areas, Halifax Port Authority (HPA) for several years has been pursuing a strategy of diversification through development of all core business areas – cargo, cruise and real estate. This strategy has been a key factor in the Port Authority’s ability to generate strong and consistent cash flow while developing port infrastructure in a highly competitive marine environment. “The diverse revenue stream at Port of Halifax helps to provide long term stability,” said Paul MacIsaac, Senior Vice President, Halifax Port Authority. “We remain committed to working with our stakeholders and partners to create economic growth for the region while maintaining our robust financial position.”

“When you look at the Port of Halifax, there are so many aspects that come together to support a wide range of businesses across the entire economy of our province,” said Patrick Bohan, Director, Supply Chain Solutions, Halifax Port Authority. The Port of Halifax is a diverse, multi-functional port with the capabilities to handle containers, ro/ro, heavy lift, liquid and dry bulk and breakbulk at both private and HPA terminals. All of this affects labour, harbour pilots, tugs, and the larger port community. “It is a very complex system and very impressive. There are a lot of capabilities here,” Bohan said.

The cruise industry in Halifax is a good example of what can be achieved by exploring other areas of business development. For the 2015 cruise season in Halifax, over 140 vessel calls are scheduled which is the largest number of scheduled calls to date. A recent economic impact report found the cruise industry in Halifax is now worth an estimated $104.3 million in economic benefit each year. This includes not only passenger spending on tours, excursions, gifts and meals, but also the provisioning associated with the cruise vessels when they are in port. Many of them take on local delicacies such as seafood and Nova Scotia wine, or take advantage of the full range of marine services available within the port.

To provide better support to the cruise lines and their passengers, a former cargo warehouse at Pier 22 in Halifax was repurposed and redeveloped into what is now known as Pavilion 22. The facility is home to dozens of seasonal vendors who provide goods and services to cruise ship passengers. The facility has proven to be a win-win across the board – cruise passengers enjoy having a variety of products and services readily available, and the retailers benefit by having a steady stream of customers.

The entire seaport has undergone a significant transformation over the past decade. As a district, the Halifax Seaport now attracts between 1.2 million and 1.3 million visitors annually. The area includes the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design Seaport Campus, the Cunard Centre which is a large multipurpose event facility, the award-winning Garrison craft brewery, coffee shops, art galleries, and the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market which is the largest farmers’ market in Atlantic Canada.

“It is a very interesting dynamic because it shows the multi-purpose nature of strategic development,” said Bohan. “With that element of creativity,” HPA has worked collaboratively with the larger business community to develop facilities that can incubate small businesses and create opportunities for all kinds of service providers in the local economy.”

With the leasing of assets to various tenants, “We have everything from one-person operations to global terminal operators engaged in diverse activities,” said Bohan. “At the end of the day, port-related businesses collectively contribute about $1.6 billion to the economy each year, putting wages and salaries into people’s pockets. Regional economic development is one of the overriding goals.”

Halifax Port Authority, with its in-house business development group which includes specialists in cargo, cruise development, seaport development, and other aspects, is constantly looking for ways to diversify and improve revenue streams. “We continue to focus on strategic infrastructure investment and development opportunities,” said MacIsaac. “Since 2004, over $250-million has been invested into Port-facilities including infrastructure upgrades across our diverse facilities.” And with strong, consistent financial results, Halifax Port Authority is in an excellent position to move forward with additional strategic investment when the need and the business case line up.