Nova Scotia

'Logjam situation': Help on the way for congested Port of Halifax

Two container vessels are en route to Halifax to clear away some of the backlog at the port. Factors that led to the backlog include a strike in Montreal and the COVID-19 pandemic.

2 container ships are coming to clear a backlog created by labour dispute, pandemic

The port authority is using all its available space to house the additional cargo. This photo was from Aug. 17, 2020. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Two vessels are en route to ease the container traffic at the Port of Halifax.

"It's really kind of a logjam situation right now and this will go a long way toward clearing that and getting things back to normal, which is exactly where we want to be," said Lane Farguson, a Port of Halifax spokesperson.

The backlog dates back to a strike at the port in Montreal in August that saw many large container ships diverted to Halifax.

More cargo is coming in from Europe and Asia where there were manufacturing shutdowns earlier in the year due to COVID-19. There were also few containers moving by rail in Canada because part of that workforce was temporarily out of work for the same reason.

The first vessel from MSC is due to arrive in Halifax on Sunday. The second vessel from Hapag-Lloyd will follow.

"We're hoping to clear the backlog as soon as we can," said Farguson. "It's important to keep in mind that this situation is larger than just here in Halifax.

"We're seeing additional volume across the entire supply chain right now throughout Canada and the U.S."

It's been a busy few months for the port. Container terminals have been overburdened and it will take time for business to get back to normal levels.

One business in Mississauga, Ont., went weeks without receiving two containers of materials from overseas needed to fill orders.

Due to the backlog, the containers sat at the Halifax terminal until they were eventually delivered to Toronto by rail.

"These delays are causing enormous strain and distress and financial difficulties," said Ben Elango, president of SITA Granite and Stone Inc. "It's causing a strain on our cash flow on top of everything else that has happened."

Farguson said the frustration is understandable.

"We're doing all that we can right now to get things back to normal as quickly as we can, which will certainly be good for those people who have been waiting," he said.


Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.

With files from Paul Palmeter


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