Nova Scotia

Halifax port sees jump in cargo traffic due to strike at Port of Montreal

Workers at Halifax's port are putting in extra hours and cargo containers are filling up every available space as the port tries to accommodate a flood of extra cargo traffic. 

'I would say we're nearly triple what we're used to be moving at the moment'

The Port of Halifax has been bustling with activity in the last few weeks, ever since a strike at the Port of Montreal, which ended up diverting some cargo ships. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Workers at Halifax's port are putting in extra hours and cargo containers are filling up every available space as the port tries to accommodate a flood of extra cargo traffic. 

Thousands of extra cargo containers are being moved through the port, according to Bill Organ, director of freight forwarding with the Warehouse Transport Group. The company warehouses containers and helps transport them via truck or train to their ultimate destination.  

Warehouse Transport Group moves hundreds of containers through the port. Organ said a strike by longshore workers at the Port of Montreal has diverted the cargo to Halifax — one of the few ports on Canada's East Coast that has the equipment, crews, and access to rail lines to handle the extra cargo, said Organ.   

"The port is extremely busy at the moment, the last two weeks I suppose in particular," said Organ. "I would say we're nearly triple what we're used to be moving at the moment." 

Organ said that's creating jobs for anyone involved in the warehousing or trucking industries. It has also meant long hours for the crews who load and unload ships. 

To handle the additional cargo workers at the port have had to work overtime and some companies have had to hire more staff. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

"I've got some friends in the longshoreman union that are pushing hours of 70 or 80 a week at the moment," said Organ.

It's hard to get an exact number on how much new cargo is moving through the port, said Lane Farguson, the manager of media relations and communications for the Halifax Port Authority. 

But he said it's a lot. 

"What we're doing is trying to manage the yard space as best we can," said Farguson. "So if you were to drive through the property today you would see there are empty containers stacked in parking lots and in areas where you wouldn't normally see them."

Farguson says the port authority is using all its available space to house the additional cargo. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Much of that cargo is offloaded in Halifax then loaded on trains and sent to its final destination. 

Handling all that extra cargo isn't easy and it's put a strain on the people and systems used to transport goods. 

"It is now putting pressure on the supply chain coming in and out, rail cars, trucking capacity, warehousing, storage and all the things that go along with it," said Organ. 

With that in mind, Farguson said it's the port authority's priority is to make sure that its regular customers who move cargo through the port continue to receive reliable, efficient service.

"Following that we'll certainly do what we can to accommodate the additional cargo requests as capacity allows," he said. 

No one knows how long the port will have the additional cargo coming in. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Still Organ said he's impressed with how well the port and its army of employees have stepped up to handle all the new work.  

"The great thing is it's all being managed and handled really well, in particular the Port of Halifax and all the partners that work around the port as well," he said.   

It's not clear how long the additional cargo vessels will continue to rely on Halifax, Organ said additional ships have been scheduled to come into the port for the next few weeks. He estimates the strike in Montreal could go on for months.

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