Melford Terminal still has no carrier, but proponent optimistic
Project at the Strait of Canso may also lose its business partner
A spokesman for the Maher Melford Terminal project at the Strait of Canso in Guysborough County says he's optimistic it will be built, even though it has not secured a cargo carrier and it may lose its operating partner.
The $350-million project has been in the works since 2008. Richie Mann, the vice president of marketing for the project, said $40 million of private investment has been spent, the environmental permits are in place, and the land has been purchased.
"We're pretty much as shovel-ready as you can be," he said.
The last step before starting construction is to get a commitment from a carrier to provide the cargo.
"We're well down the road in due diligence and discussions and I suppose you could call it negotiations on that," he said. "Being 100 per cent private sector, we're not in the habit of divulging who we deal with."
Who will operate the terminal once it has been built may also be in question.
Project may lose partner
The current operating partner is Deutsche Bank-owned Maher Terminals. Mann said Deutsche Bank has sold the Maher operation in Prince Rupert, B.C., and it will likely sell its other Maher operation in Port Elizabeth, New Jersey.
"If the Port Elizabeth operation is sold to, let's say a non-operating entity, let's say a financial institution or something, Maher would cease to exist," he said.
"But let me say this, that throughout this process, the way the global container business has developed, particularly in recent years, there's tremendous interest in the operating side of the equation here. So we would have options in any case."
Melford has a deep-water, ice-free harbour, with no bridges or other overhead infrastructure. Navigational aids are already in place.
The proposal would see containers land at Melford and move by rail to the U.S. Midwest.
The proponents have until October of this year to begin construction under an order from the Nova Scotia minister of environment.
Mann said they still hope to meet that deadline, but they have received extensions in the past, and will seek another, if necessary. Mann said global conditions will drive the development.
"There's always been something in the global industry," he said. "Whether it was the recession, whether it was the need for alliances, whether it was the fact that the carriers were all bleeding large amounts of money post-recession, there was always something that prevented them, if you will, from making the long-term decisions.
"Unless I miss my guess, they're now in a position where they can start doing that, and this is all going to come to a head sooner rather than later."