Nova Scotia

Melford terminal project on Strait of Canso gets investment boost

The Melford Atlantic Gateway project on the Strait of Canso got an investment boost this week with the announcement of a partnership with an international terminal operator.

$350 million container terminal project has been underway since 2008

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

A $350 million project to build a container terminal on the Strait of Canso got a boost this week.

The company behind the proposed terminal announced a partnership with SSA Marine and Cyprus Capital Partners LP. It's the latest development for the project, which has been in the works for nearly a decade. 

The group says the global container terminal will become the closest North American port for ships travelling from Europe and from Asia via the Suez Canal. 

The terminal's design will accommodate ultra-large container vessels to drop off their cargo for shipment throughout the east coast of Canada and the U.S.

SSA Marine steps in

Maher Terminals recently exited as the project's operating partner. The move came after the company recently sold its operations in Prince Rupert, B.C. and Port Elizabeth, N.J. 

SSA Marine is now stepping in, and says it is the world's largest, privately held marine terminal operator. The company operates nearly 250 terminal and rail facilities on five continents. 

"We have spent considerable effort over the years examining terminal opportunities on the east coast of North America," said SSA president Mark Knudsen in the statement.

Knudsen said his company believes the Melford terminal could reduce delivery time to U.S. and Canadian markets by two to six days thanks to a local rail connection to the CN rail network. 

1st port of call in North America

About $40 million of private funds have been spent on the project so far. The land has been purchased and environmental permits secured, and the provincial permit to begin work was recently extended to October 2018.

"We're pretty much as shovel-ready as you can be," Richie Mann, vice president of marketing for the project, told CBC News in January. 

No public funds have been spent on the project to date.

The missing piece of the puzzle is securing a commitment from a carrier to provide cargo for the terminal. 

But the SSA Marine partnership will be an advantage because of its relationships with the world's leading steamship lines, Melford president Paul Martin said in a statement.

Similar project in Sydney

Meanwhile, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality is also working to get a container site built in Sydney, and also wants to be the first North American port of call for container ships.

Mayor Cecil Clarke was not willing to speak Friday about developments at Melford.

"We will not be commenting on anyone else's project. We are going ahead with full confidence," he said via spokeswoman Christine Lamey.

The idea of a container terminal in Sydney was given a significant boost recently when the Canderel Group of Companies, based in Montreal, announced it was ready to build a logistics park next to the harbour. (Warren Gordon)

Melford has a deep-water, ice-free harbour, with no bridges or other overhead infrastructure, and access to rail transportation.

Sydney markets itself as a deep harbour, with environmental approvals in place and recently got a designation as a foreign trade zone. 

China Construction Communications Company is expected to undertake a feasibility study this summer to design and build a container terminal and Montreal's Canderel Group of Companies said in May it is ready to build a logistics park, to be called Novazone, next to the harbour. 

Last month, Egypt's ambassador to Canada said a memorandum of understanding has been negotiated between Egypt and CBRM for potential shipping business.​