Nova Scotia

CN bidding for Halifax container terminal

If successful, Canadian National Railway says it will spend money to upgrade the Halterm container terminal in Halifax's south end.

Railway's president says CN is also considering 2 other ports

The Halterm container terminal in Halifax's south end is shown on Aug. 29, 2018. (Pam Berman/CBC)

Canadian National Railway has submitted a bid to buy Atlantic Canada's largest container terminal.

The company says if successful, it will spend money to upgrade the Halterm container terminal in Halifax.

"As part of our action-oriented approach to grow trade volume on our Eastern Network, CN is exploring the opportunity with a partner of getting involved in the acquisition of Halifax's Halterm container terminal, the largest intermodal container terminal in Eastern Canada," said CN spokesperson Jonathan Abecassis in an emailed statement.

The purchase of Halterm would give CN even greater control over container movement in and out of Atlantic Canada where it owns the only rail line.

East Coast gateway

Australia's Macquarie Infrastructure put the terminal on the market months ago after 11 years of ownership.

It paid $172 million in 2007 just before a global recession.

The sale, however, comes as container traffic in Halifax is on the rise.

Halterm reports handling about 250,000 containers a year at its 30-hectare facility in the city's south end.

CN president Jean Jacques Ruest told the Financial Post the railway is looking for an East Coast gateway equivalent to Prince Rupert, B.C.

Melford in the running?

Ruest also told the newspaper CN is looking at two other ports — one on the St. Lawrence and one in Nova Scotia.

A rendering of the proposed cargo terminal in Melford, Guysborough County. (Submitted by Richie Mann)

Speculation turned quickly to Quebec City and the proposed Melford International Terminal — a greenfield site at the Strait of Canso separating mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island.

Melford vice-president Richie Mann said Melford is a lot like Prince Rupert.

"No encroachment, no competition for recreational, residential, other commercial, industrial uses. Doesn't have a lot of the problems that have sprung up in ports where cities are located," he said.

If CN and others have submitted proposals for the Halterm facility, Mann said he "would also encourage them to take a look at Melford while they are doing that and compare the two."

Macquarie​ did not respond to a request for comment.

About the Author

Paul Withers


Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.