By Tom Peters

As the global marine industry continues to evolve, introducing bigger ships, dealing with environmental remedies to combat climate change, adapting to technological advances and a long list of other issues, the South End container terminal in the port of Halifax is going through its own makeover, albeit on a much smaller scale.

In the past several months, former terminal operator Halterm Container Terminal was acquired by Singapore-based PSA International Pte. Ltd. from Australia-based Macquarie Infrastructure Partners. The terminal has since been rebranded to PSA Halifax.

The new operator adds depth and strength to Halifax’s marketing position. PSA is a leading global port group with flagship operations in Singapore and Antwerp. PSA’s portfolio comprises a network of over 50 coastal, rail and inland terminals in 18 countries.

Capt. Allan Gray, Halifax Port Authority’s (HPA) new President and CEO, who moved to HPA from the Ports of Fremantle, Perth, Australia, says PSA will be a great addition to Halifax and brings future cargo opportunities. “I’m well aware of PSA from being in Australia and the Asia region,” Gray said. “They are a highly prominent player in the terminal markets and also very savvy in the terminal business. They will leverage their knowledge through Asia to draw additional markets,” he said.

David Yang, PSA’s Regional CEO for Europe, Mediterranean and the Americas, said PSA would like to see Halifax become a logistics hub and sees opportunities to participate in supply chain logistics. “We have met with CN which gave us some very encouraging ideas,” Yang said.

In further discussion on PSA’s plans for an intermodal hub, Kim Holtermand, PSA Halifax’s CEO and Managing Director, said PSA Halifax’s customers depend upon the terminal’s fast, efficient intermodal links in order to serve shippers globally with cargo sourced or destined for major Canadian centres and across U.S. Midwest. “Going forward we will look to build on current services with greater rail service frequency, ‘destination trains’ direct to and from Halifax and inland cities and a customer approach that delivers greater transparency in our service and confidence in our product,” Holtermand said.

He added that the Port Authority has also been successful in making the case for National Transportation Corridor Funding to improve PSA’s on-terminal rail capabilities, taking trucks off Nova Scotia’s roads and out of the city and in the process offering better service opportunities for Canadian exporters across the Atlantic Provinces and simplifying import supply chains.

“PSA believes ports should become one of the links in the supply chain and we want to build out to improve that supply chain,” Yang said.

While PSA plans for future supply chain efficiencies, work continues with efficiency programs already in place such as truck turn-around times. “In 2018 we took our truck turn-around below the 60 minutes average sought by our customers and in 2019 we delivered an average of 50 minutes from street-to-street, while also turning our focus towards improving our rail product,” said Holtermand. “That effort continues in 2020 and since we expect that our growth will increasingly depend upon inland opportunities by rail, we will continue to work very closely with our supply chain partner CN,” he added.

Holtermand said “PSA Halifax is Eastern Canada’s only container terminal capable of handling Ultra-Class vessels, and in 2020 we are excited to see that the delivery of a new crane and the completion of our berth extension will enable us to accommodate two such vessels simultaneously.”

Prior to PSA taking control of terminal operations, Halifax Port Authority began construction of an extension to the South End terminal. The $35-million project will extend the terminal by 134 metres and a working width of 57 metres. The extension will bring the total berth length to a continuous 800 metres. The work is scheduled for completion in mid-June. A new super-post Panamax crane, which will be able to extend across 24 containers, and a variety of supporting equipment, will be operational on the terminal by mid-summer.

The size of the vessels carrying containerized cargo continues to increase, said Holtermand. In 2019, the port received its largest Ultra-Class vessel, 364-metre CMA CGM Libra, with a capacity of 11,400 TEUs.In March of 2020, PSA Halifax is expected to see vessels in the 14,000 TEU range.

Holtermand said the terminal has attracted a number of new customers in recent years including Evergreen, Cosco Shipping, OOCL and Tropical Shipping and has built on strong regional connections with Eimskip, Oceanex and Melfi, “always with a view to further expand the customer base and the network opportunities for our long term customers including Zim Integrated, CMA CGM and Maersk Line.”

On the management side, PSA Halifax is essentially the same team that has been responsible for the growth of the terminal in the last few years. “Our industry, however, does not stand still and as we integrate ourselves fully into the global PSA family, we have much to gain from the experiences of other international teams developing new customers, new products and new technologies in other countries. We have to be agile and energetic enough to pull on all these threads and to adapt to the industry whatever it throws at us, but we have developed a team that ‘Can do’ and we move ahead with real confidence, Holtermand said.