Nova Scotia

Sydney and Melford push back as port study favours Halifax

A consultant's report recommending that port development efforts in Nova Scotia focus on current operations in Halifax rather than proposed sites in Sydney or Guysborough County is not the final word on the subject, according to the province's transportation minister.

Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan says consultant's report isn't final word

The CMA-CGM Vivaldi is shown at the Halterm terminal last year. (CBC)

A consultant's report recommending that port development efforts in Nova Scotia focus on current operations in Halifax rather than proposed sites in Sydney or Guysborough County is not the final word on the subject, according to the province's transportation minister.

The study, commissioned by ACOA and the province for $80,000, was completed in June by CPCS consultants. The report states the provincial government should "support the competitiveness of Halifax."

"It is our view that the current market would be unlikely to support more container ports in Nova Scotia," the study concluded, adding that Halifax's terminal is an "underutilized" facility.

Even so, Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan said he believes there are still opportunities for the Sydney and Melford terminal proposals, noting both have deep water and lots of surrounding land for development.

Sydney continues to push forward with its bid for an international container terminal. (Warren Gordon)

Melford is a proposed $350-million container terminal on the Strait of Canso that would accommodate ultra-large ships dropping off cargo destined for eastern Canada and the U.S. Sydney wants to build a container terminal of its own, and a consultant is working to land a shipper.

MacLellan told CBC Cape Breton's Information Morning that while the CPCS study is valuable, the future of the Sydney and Melford projects depends largely on private business.

"It's the private-sector groups that are leading those conversations, that have to drive this by way of finding shippers, finding operators, and by way of getting those massive development dollars that are required to get this started," said MacLellan.

Study 'already dated'

The CEO of the Port of Sydney, Marlene Usher, said in an email the CPCS report is "already dated" in a "rapidly changing world of shipping."

It "didn't foresee recent developments underway at the Port of Halifax to study a move to Dartmouth to handle the ultra-large container ships," she said.

As a result it can no longer be claimed there's no need for Sydney or Melford's private-sector deepwater terminal projects when there's uncertainty about what the Dartmouth study will show, she said.

She said she views Sydney and Melford as better located than Halifax to be a "true Atlantic gateway" for ultra-large ships coming from the Suez Canal.

Halifax, on the other hand, is "congested by urban growth," she said. "There is no room for the port to grow the required 300 to 400-acre site."

Put new cargo into the mix

Richie Mann, director of marketing for the Melford proposal, points to a recent agreement with a major terminal operator and said he expects the private project will soon secure carriers who commit to use its facility near Port Hawkesbury.

Mann adds the report also has found that while most North American container terminals have seen massive growth over the past 20 years, Halifax has "basically been flat" since 2003.

"Let's put it this way. We've said from day one that in order to make this project go we have to introduce new cargo into the mix. ... That's our target. It's always been our target."

A spokesperson for the Port of Halifax declined comment.

With files from Information Morning, Canadian Press

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