Reviewing regulation; mobile apps to change landscape
Packed with 100 tonnes of fresh lobster, a Korean Air Cargo Boeing 777F lifts off from the Halifax International Airport’s Runway 05/25 and disappears into the clouds. After a refueling stop in Anchorage, it flies to Seoul, South Korea, its final destination. Gate to gate, the flight will take just 14 hours.
Thanks to a $28-million, 1,700-foot runway extension that lengthened the airport’s main runway to 10,500 feet, completed in 2012, larger, more heavily fuelled aircraft can make long-haul flights like these. The project has contributed to a 428% increase in live lobster exports to Asia, and to Korean Air Cargo graduating from charter flights to a schedule that, for example, includes weekly service to Incheon, South Korea.
This is just one example of the improvements in the past five years to enhance what is collectively known as the Halifax Gateway: the Port of Halifax, Port of Sheet Harbour, CN Rail, Halifax-area logistics and warehousing and the road network between Nova Scotia and the rest of North America.
Since 2010 the Halifax Port Authority (HPA) and the private sector have invested some $350 million in the Port of Halifax. Take the $64-million Richmond Terminals redevelopment, for example. Now with 500 metres of pier frontage and 11 acres of laydown space, Richmond Terminals can now handle breakbulk and project cargo. Its first major delivery, in October 2014, was crane components for the National Shipbuilding Program at the Halifax Shipyard.
In 2015 HPA facilities imported 233,011 tonnes and exported 172,329 tonnes of non-containerised cargo.
The two container terminals, operated by Halterm Container Terminal Limited and Ceres Halifax Inc., can each berth two post-Panamax container ships. One of the largest ships to visit the port was CMA CGM Vivaldi, carrying 9,034 TEUs.
Last year the Port of Halifax imported 209,904 TEUs and exported 208,455 TEUs, but this is nowhere near the Port’s capacity. “Containerized throughput could triple with no significant changes to infrastructure,” says Lane Farguson, Communications Advisor, HPA.
A key goal of the Halifax Gateway Council has been to market and brand the Halifax Gateway. “Creating the brand and telling the world we are ready for business has been a big focus,” says Nancy Phillips, Executive Director, Halifax Gateway. “We are fully ready to go with recent infrastructure upgrades having been completed.”
But even a well-equipped port is a work in progress. This February, for example, the HPA announced it had updated its web-based container-tracking tool. “[It] allows importers and exporters to track container[s],” Farguson explains.
The Port of Halifax hums with cruise ship traffic, worth over $100 million a year to the local economy. Last year 141 vessels and 222,309 passengers visited Halifax. It was also the first full year that properly equipped ships could access shore power.
The HPA recently marked its third year as port manager of the nearby Port of Sheet Harbour, under its subsidiary company, Port of Sheet Harbour Management Inc. The Port of Sheet Harbour has a 152 metre-long wharf and can accommodate ships up to 240 metres long. The minimum draft is 10 metres, and like Halifax, Sheet Harbour is always ice-free.
Upgrades include new lighting, a truck scale, building renovations and improvements to the access road. It has 12 acres of laydown area for project cargo, like the two-dozen wind turbine blades delivered and painted there last year. There are also 30 acres of backup land. “Port of Sheet Harbour is not hampered by urban congestion and land limitations,” Phillips says.
“The Port of Sheet Harbour is a well-built facility that complements the existing facilities in Halifax. With convenient highway access, [it] is ideally situated for oversized breakbulk cargo. Common use examples include pipes, tubulars, wind turbines, fabrication modules and dry bulk products. Many of these cargoes can also be handled through Halifax, [providing] shippers and cargo owners with tremendous flexibility,” Farguson says.
The Atlantic Gateway – Halifax Logistics Park, located in Burnside Park in Dartmouth, just across the harbor from Halifax, complements the capabilities of the two ports. Halifax Gateway describes it as the largest business park north of Boston and East of Montreal. It has over one million square feet of transload, distribution and warehouse space. Over 1,500 businesses and 15,000 employees work there. “The city supports the concept that having a logistics park, with available lands market-ready, is a fundamental part of the development of the Gateway,” Phillips says.
The ports, Logistics Park and the airport are plugged into strong surface modes: CN has a strong presence at the Port of Halifax. Its Autoport Port facility in Eastern Passage, just up the coast from Halifax, handles 190,000 vehicles a year. Halifax is just 36 rail hours from Toronto, 66 hours from Chicago and 94 hours from Memphis.
Halifax and Dartmouth give easy access to divided, or twinned highways for the efficient movement of goods in and out of the province. In New Brunswick the Trans-Canada connects to the Route 1 Gateway and the U.S. border; the New Brunswick government completed the twinning of this highway in late 2012. The Trans-Canada westbound has long been twinned to the Quebec Border.
While twinned highways have traditionally meant uninterrupted speed, they have more recently become the only highways on which Long Combination Vehicles (LCVs) – two 53-foot trailers pulled by a single tractor – are permitted to travel. Once Quebec completes the twinning of Highway 85 between the New Brunswick border and Riviere du Loup, carriers will be able to drive their exceptionally efficient LCVs from Halifax to Toronto and beyond without breaking them down to travel Highway 85.
This is but one hint of what the future holds for the Halifax Gateway. Take the growth potential in the Atlantic Gateway – Halifax Logistics Park. It is still in Phase 1 of its development, with 50 acres developed and 90 more acres of serviced lots at the ready. There is a Phase 2 on the books and, Phillips notes, “The Municipality is not selling any of the Logistics Park land for any other uses.”
Last year’s designation of Halifax as a Foreign Trade Zone is a story in the making about new international trade possibilities. And only late this January did the Halifax International Airport Authority (HIAA) declare the successful conclusion of a five-year process to get zoning protection around the airport that will protect its status as a 24/7 airport.
“The zoning changes restrict non-compatible use. We’re making a change today that will eliminate a problem 10 years from now,” says Peter Spurway, Vice-President Corporate Communications & Airport Experience, HIAA.
The HPA tells a similar story about the MacDonald Bridge, which Halifax Harbour Bridges (HHB) is redecking. In anticipation of even larger ships making calls, HPA will contribute $1.5 million to the additional engineering work required to raise the deck height by 2.1 metres.“The HPA and HHB have long worked well together as partners on various projects. Contributing to the redecking project is part of our long-term planning to ensure that Halifax terminals can continue to accommodate big ships,” Farguson says.
The economic impact of the Halifax Gateway is worth over $3 billion a year and, as Phillips says, “When we all work together and leverage resources, we are stronger together. A unified voice and common priorities make it easier to accomplish our goals.”
Port Saint John
Under a seven-year, $205-million project announced last year, Port Saint John will be making major improvements to its customer offerings.
A major harbor deepening project will increase the depth of the main channel from 8.4 to 10 metres, allowing cruise ships, for example, the ability to dock regardless of the tide; the port recently marked its 1000th cruise ship visit. The deepening will also permit larger ships to access the port.
The Rodney Terminal and Navy Island Terminal will be improved and consolidated to accommodate larger ships. With water depths of 12.2 metres and 10.4 metres, respectively, they are used for containers, dry bulk, break bulk, and project cargo. According to Port Saint John, this project will cover 60 acres, including 25 acres to be transformed into container storage, 10 acres for a multipurpose yard, and the rest for uses such as roads, trans-loading, cargo consolidation warehouses and lay-down areas.
Port Saint John has increased its dry bulk by 45% since 2011, to 1,357,008 metric tonnes, its container tonnage by 137% to 610,588 MT and its container TEUs by 119%, to 97,114 TEUs. Meant to “get the port back on the map,” says Jim Quinn, President and CEO of Port Saint John, the improvements will enhance the port’s desirability as an alternative to more congested ports on the Eastern Seaboard.