Nova Scotia

Another global shipper warns it may bypass Halifax due to rail blockades

Another large shipping line that calls on Halifax is prepared to route cargo away from the city's port because Indigenous protests have paralyzed the rail system in eastern Canada.

German-headquartered Hapag Lloyd reviewing options to divert cargo

The blockade in Ontario means containers can't be moved by rail in or out of Halifax. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Another large shipping line that calls on Halifax is prepared to route cargo away from the city's port because Indigenous protests have paralyzed the rail system in eastern Canada.

German-headquartered Hapag-Lloyd told its customers in a notice Wednesday on its website that "various options to move/divert cargo out of Halifax are being explored."

"The blockade in Ontario remains in place, and CN's Eastern Canadian network is more or less shut down," the company said.

CN Rail operates the only rail line serving Halifax. Last week, it stopped moving cargo in and out of the Maritimes because of blockades of the main line near Belleville, Ont., by protesters supporting Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to a 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.

ACL ships bypass Halifax

While Hapag-Lloyd considers its options, long-time New Jersey shipper Atlantic Container Line (ACL) has decided it will divert cargo from Halifax to U.S. ports because of what its president, Andy Abbott, called "this ridiculous situation."

The routing away by ACL means two vessels originally bound next week for the Ceres Corp. container terminal at Fairview Cove in Halifax will instead skip the port.

ACL's so-called next-generation vessels, which can carry both containers and vehicles, unload hundreds of containers each week in Halifax destined for the midwest on the CN Rail line, and pick up containers for export.

"Export rail cargo is not coming into Halifax and import volume already here is not moving out therefore congesting the terminal. We now have two vessels scheduled to bypass the port," Fritz King, ACL's manager for Canada, told CBC News in an email Thursday.

"What other choice do we have available; our customers expect and deserve service?"

ACL can move Halifax cargo through three other U.S. ports on its regular rotation: New York, Baltimore and Virginia Beach, Va.

ZIM warns of delays

ZIM, another major shipping line that uses Halifax, told its customers Wednesday it "will continue to monitor the situation closely and will keep you updated on any further development."

ZIM said some cargo is getting through "by alternative routes" to reach the Brampton, Ont., rail terminal, although the company did not detail how. It did warn customers to "expect delays with cargo delivery."

On Wednesday, ACL's president expressed his frustration in a statement to CBC News.

"Our Canadian and U.S. midwest operations have been shut down for almost two weeks now over this ridiculous situation," Abbott said.

"Meanwhile, Ottawa does absolutely nothing but give lip service while the country's transportation system has been shut down over an issue totally unrelated to the railroads.

"CN Rail, Halifax and Canada are the losers here. And you can quote me."

Abbott told the business website AllNovaScotia.com that ACL will return to Halifax when the rail disruption ends.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is also concerned about the situation.

"We can't continue to allow the economy to be slowed down and we can do that through dialogue," he said. "That's great, but we need to make sure that the goods and services have the ability to move across this country."

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