The Port of Halifax says it's looking at relocating a container terminal across to the Dartmouth side of the harbour as it moves to reduce or even eliminate container truck traffic in the cities downtown core.

"We are a long, long way from saying 'This is what we are doing' but we are certainly looking at the art of the possible," says Halifax Port Authority CEO Karen Oldfield.

The Port of Halifax is in the midst of a master planning exercise. The main objective is ensuring the port is capable of berthing and servicing two of the new generation of ultra-large container ships, which are not calling on Halifax today.

"Ultras," as the ships are known, now carry 13,000 or more containers. The largest container ship calling today, CMA CGM Tage, carries fewer than 9,400 boxes.

Minimizing downtown truck traffic

The port has not specified if one or both of the existing terminals—Ceres at Fairview Cove and Halterm in the city's south end—would move across the harbour. Oldfield was asked by reporters this week whether a Dartmouth-side terminal is an option.

"We have told our master planning consultants, 'Let's look at this,'" she says.

The port has hired WSP Parsons Brinckerhofff, an international transportation consulting company, to report back on the Dartmouth terminal option and a "second objective." 

"And that is to look for ways to eliminate or minimize truck traffic in the downtown of Halifax," Oldfield said. 

Major changes to downtown Halifax

It's a pressing issue since the current truck route will be shut down in 2018 when the city demolishes the Cogswell Street interchange.

Oldfield says truck routing and a potential terminal relocation are all part of the same discussion, although no decision has been made. Both issues are considered part of phase one of the port's master plan study. The consultants will report back on those options in the new year.

A spokesman for CN Rail confirmed it is aware of the study.

"The Halifax Port Authority is a valued partner, and CN has been working with the Port Authority as port officials explore their future development plans," said CN's Patrick Waldron. 

Will Halterm or Ceres relocate?

Halterm could be considered the prime candidate for relocation since its 30-hectare property in Halifax's south end is sitting on more valuable land.

Halterm is owned by Macquarie Group. The company's New York-based spokesperson Melissa McNamara told CBC News the company has "no comment" on the Halifax master planning exercise and what it might mean for Halterm.

Peter Ziobrowksi, a blogger who runs Halifax Shipping News, says Ceres in Fairview may be a more likely candidate. Clearances under the Halifax harbour bridges limit the size of vessels able to travel up the harbour to call at Fairview Cove.

"If you look at the global industry, the ships are getting larger. There is consolidation. Smaller post-Panamax ships that used to call at Halifax are being scrapped," Ziobrowski told CBC News.

"Ceres would be my bet."

Ziobrowksi points out many downtown lots suitable for high-rise development will become available for development when the Cogwsell interchange comes down.

There are also many questions about a potential Dartmouth terminal, including where it would be located, whether it would need dredging and rail capacity.