Nova Scotia

CN Rail Autoport backlog not just weather related, says union

CN Rail has a large backlog at its Eastern Passage autoport that’s being partially blamed on Nova Scotia’s brutal winter.

Longshoremen's union says the Autoport is generally slow at moving its cargo

CN Rail has a large backlog at its Eastern Passage Autoport, where many vehicles in the lot are partially encrusted in ice. (Richard Cuthbertson/CBC)

CN Rail has a large backlog at its Eastern Passage Autoport, one that’s being partially blamed on Nova Scotia’s brutal winter.

Many vehicles in the lot are encrusted in ice half way up their tires.

CN spokesman Mark Hallman says in an email that those vehicles are impossible to move right now, and as a result the rail company is finding it difficult to off load fresh shipments.

The Autoport is supposed to be a short-term stop for vehicles as they are brought in from Europe by ship and then loaded onto rail cars and trucks. 

The union that represents longshoremen says the other reason behind the delay is that CN is generally too slow moving its cargo.

"If we can move the cargo out of Halifax in a timely manner, we don’t get into this situation. Those cars don’t get frozen in," said ​Kevin Piper with the Halifax Longshoremen's Association Local 269.

As an example, he points to last spring when the Autoport had to store vehicles on a nearby golf course because of a backlog of cars.

The company says it has told customers that ships carrying vehicles could be waiting a "couple days" before there is room to unload their cargo.

Kevin Piper is with the Halifax Longshoremen's Association Local 269. (CBC)

Hallmans also says CN Rail has secured some extra off-site storage space and is looking for more.

It's also bringing in more temporary workers.

He refused to say how many vehicles are currently at the Autoport and other off-site spaces. However, an Autoport employee and the union both say there are about 15,000 cars at the site, about 5,000 more than normal.

There are concerns the backlog could lead car shippers to look to another port.

"They have to be at the market at the high time of the year, so them being on the ground, frozen at Autoport, should never happen," said Piper.

CN says it could take between two and three weeks to clear the backlog.

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