By Tom Peters

Richmond Terminals at the Port of Halifax is a facility you won’t find anywhere else. The $64 million terminal expansion and upgrade to the multipurpose marine facility at Pier 9C was a gateway infrastructure project undertaken by Halifax Port Authority (HPA) and the federal government of Canada. Completed last fall, it has resulted in approximately 450 metres of new dock with 13.7 metre draft; 7000 square metres of shed space with truck and rail access, and 5 acres laydown area. “It arrived at the right time in the marketplace,” says Patrick Bohan, Director, Supply Chain Solutions, Halifax Port Authority. “Since the first vessel call in October, 2014, the new Pier 9C at Richmond has seen 144 days of berth utilization to June 30,” according to Bohan. “This includes traditional berthage, vessel repair calls, special projects and five significant heavy lift cargo moves during that time period plus additional heavy lift moves in July and August.”

The Richmond facility, combined with Ocean Terminals and the breakbulk capability of the Port of Sheet Harbour, also operated by HPA, provide the Port Authority several options to grow that segment of the cargo business. “Richmond has given us additional capacity at an important time,” Bohan said. “It has proven to be a solid complimentary facility to Ocean Terminals when its capacity was tested this past year and has been invaluable in accepting heavy lift cargo, including steel and cranes for the Irving Shipyard which is in the process of building Canada’s new combat vessels.”

“We have had a real high level of utilization at Ocean Terminals, pushing the limits of what we can do there,” said Bohan who explained how Richmond has been able to take some of the overflow business from Ocean. Bohan said that past years the port has had to turn cargo away from Ocean Terminals at times because it was at capacity, but now with Richmond on stream, the additional capacity has given the port room to handle the extra business.

That facility, for example, played an important role this past year in the export of forest products by AV Cell Inc. of New Brunswick. AV Cell moved product over Richmond Terminal, which was “the first forest products we have handled through the new shed, so it was nice to take advantage of the new capacity,” said Bohan. “It gives AV Cell, a long term exporter here, some additional options, especially during the winter when things become a bit challenging getting product to market,” he said.

AV Cell, of Atholville, moved bales of wood pulp to the Richmond shed by truck and then loaded the bales into marine containers which moved over both the Ceres and Halterm terminals.

Bohan said AV Cell started moving the product, destined for China and other East Asian markets, through the shed in mid-March. “It has been a nice shot in the arm for the port,” he said. But what is ahead is even more promising.

The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) has identified $129 billion in mega projects either planned or underway in Atlantic Canada and Bohan feels Richmond could be a key player in handling parts and supplies for many of these projects.

He suggests that these projects, whether they be shipbuilding, the transmission line for the Muskrat Falls power project or Shell’s offshore drilling project, will lead to “some good years of spending in Nova Scotia and in the backyard of the port.” That spending, he said, will translate into more goods and parts for these projects and will move by either container or breakbulk over Halifax port facilities.

At the Port of Sheet Harbour, managed by HPA, there have been inroads made this past year with the port’s ability to handle wind mill components and special projects. “We have been joined there by excellent service providers like Logistec, Empire and others,” said Bohan. One job utilized laydown area at the terminal to carry out additional work on the wind mill blades. The blades were moved from the laydown area into a shed and painted. When that work was completed they were transported to a wind farm project within the province. “The (blade painting) project played to strengths of not only the terminal stevedores but to the local community and workforce,” said Bohan.

Sheet Harbour is now a common use terminal with both Empire Stevedoring and Logistec Stevedoring using the facility. “Becoming a common user (terminal) was the original vision,” said Bohan. “The Port Authority went in there as port manager and with Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) to develop it as a common user terminal like Ocean where we have a couple choices of stevedore providers. These firms bring different strengths so it is a very positive development,” he said.

As Halifax can lay claim to top facilities for non-containerized cargo, HPA has been marketing these cargo strengths globally at such venues like Breakbulk Europe in Antwerp in May, with supply chain partners like CN. “This is a good conference to be at for Halifax and Sheet Harbour,” said Bohan. “We have a joint venture with NSBI to share a booth at the show,” he added.

HPA was also part of the Halifax Gateway mission to Europe in May, visiting Brussels, Hamburg, London and Amsterdam/Rotterdam, with Gateway partners including CN, Nova Scotia Business Inc., and the Halifax International Airport Authority.