Nova Scotia

Melford container terminal project on Strait of Canso facing delays

The province has granted a two-year extension on permits to start work on the project in Guysborough County.

Province has granted a 2-year extension on permits to start work on project

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

It could be another two years before construction begins on a Strait of Canso container terminal that's been in the planning stages for almost a decade. 

The provincial permit to being work on the $350 million Melford terminal in Guysborough County expires at the end of October, but the permit deadline was extended to October 2018 last week. 

Project officials say the delay isn't cause for concern, and extensions are part of doing business.

"Those things take a lot of time, especially when they're so dependent on global conditions," said Richie Mann, Melford's vice-president of marketing.

An artists drawing shows a ship loaded with shipping containers docked alongside a container terminal with dozens of other containers already unloaded.
The provincial permit to being work on the $350 million Melford terminal in Guysborough County was extended to October 2018. (Melford International Terminal Inc.)

Mann said many shipping lines are emerging from tumultuous economic times and there are a lot of mergers and reorganizing happening in the industry.

The hope is those changes will be a good thing for the proposed Melford terminal, and allow a cargo carrier to make a long-term commitment, Mann said.

Initially, the proposed terminal included Maher Terminals as the operating partner but Maher recently sold its operations in Prince Rupert, B.C. and Port Elizabeth, N.J. 

Maher and the Melford project are not bound to one another, Mann said.

"Maher or other operators could certainly be a possibility."

Hopes for a fair playing field

While the Melford project continues its search for a cargo carrier, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality is working to get a container site up and running in Sydney.

Mann said Melford doesn't have much to say about what other groups are doing, but hopes the provincial and federal governments keep a level playing field. To date, Melford has spent $40 million of private investments in its effort and no public money.

"All we've said is 'Don't do anything that puts a competitor at an advantage over us.' We believe that's always been a fair request."

'It still makes sense'

As for their own proposal, Mann said company officials still feel like it's a winner because "it still makes sense."

"We've got deep water [and a harbour] that never needs dredging. We've got no ice, we've got no bridges, we can be custom built to accommodate the large vessels [and] we have no competing interest on the land," he said.

Carriers and cargo managers have never told them the project doesn't make sense, but it's been a question of timing, said Mann.

"That's why I say we need those global conditions to line up. We need certain global factors to come together to make it the right time to proceed."