Atlantic Canada ports increase breakbulk capacity for mega projects

By: | at 10:00 AM | Channel(s): Maritime  

On Canada’s east coast, port officials see current multi-billion dollar mega projects in the region, notably in the energy sector, as a big incentive for developing their breakbulk and project cargo business. The Port of Halifax, especially, is boosting capacity significantly to also benefit in the near future from last fall’s free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union awaiting the completion of final details.

Construction proceeding at Richmond Terminals that will significantly increase breakbulk capacity in the Port of Halifax. (Photo credit: Steve Farmer)
Construction proceeding at Richmond Terminals that will significantly increase breakbulk capacity in the Port of Halifax. (Photo credit: Steve Farmer)

George Malec, vice-president of business development and operations for the Halifax Port Authority, talks of “a tremendous growth potential” for breakbulk and project cargo flowing from planned C$115 billion capital expenditures in Atlantic Canada mega projects as well as from freer trade across the Atlantic. The latter is known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The regional mega projects include an East-West oil pipeline, a Potash Corp. mine, Shell and BP offshore oil exploration projects, Muskrat Falls hydro power project, Hebron oil field, Long Harbour (Newfoundland) nickel plant, and the modernization of the Irving shipyard in Halifax to carry out $25 billion in federal naval contracts.

“To fully realize the opportunities that CETA will bring, it is critical that ports and related stakeholders such as carrier partners, terminal operators and all logistics operators make the necessary investments now to be able to ramp up quickly when the changes associated with CETA are enacted,” Malec told AJOT.

“This involves upgrading infrastructure but also includes reviewing and improving upon existing practices and procedures to generate efficiencies that will produce better performance and network organization,” he added.

The Halifax Port Authority (HPA) oversees two breakbulk facilities – Ocean Terminals and Richmond Terminals.

Of special interest is the extensive renovation of Richmond Terminals slated to be complete by this coming fall. Total investment of over C$70 million is shared by the port authority and Transport Canada, the federal transportation department.

The major renovation will comprise a covered floor space spread across 1.7 acres – the largest on HPA territory - with the flexibility to accommodate both rail and truck moves.

Last year, breakbulk and project cargo activity at the Port of Halifax totaled 125,123 metric tons, representing a 7% increase over 2012.

Malec has indicated that the Nova Scotia port is continuing to move windmill components, steel rails and manufacturing equipment in addition to mining equipment and other heavy machinery used to support the energy industry in Western Canada.

This past February, the main components of a crusher, destined for Copper Mounting Mining in British Columbia, arrived in Halifax and was offloaded onto CN rail for transportation to Kamloops. The C$40 million secondary crusher is the largest of its kind in Western Canada.

Centrally located in Atlantic Canada, and just 60 miles from the U.S. border, the Port of Saint John in New Brunswick presently boasts of the largest breakbulk-handling port in the region.

While oil accounts for over 90% of overall throughput of more than 27 million metric tons, the port’s dedicated breakbulk terminal has substantial open areas and warehouse space. The port has developed business partnerships with local stevedores, terminal operators, equipment suppliers and service providers to ensure the most efficient breakbulk operations. It is engaged today with industry and the provincial government in a multi-year project to harness the tidal power of the Saint John River.

Another port in New Brunswick, Belledune, has undergone considerable expansion in recent years, catering, among other areas, to growing breakbulk opportunities. The port notably has a new ro/ro terminal, a new barge terminal, and 27 acres of storage directly adjacent to the terminals, plus a new modular component fabrication facility.

Situated on the northeastern coast of New Brunswick, Belledune has experienced steady growth.

Concerning breakbulk and project cargo, Raymond Doucette, port president and CEO, points to the handling of such items as windmill components, mobile homes and trailers, and large tanks shipped out to construction sites in the Arctic in the past few years.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the ports of Corner Brook and St. John’s have the necessary facilities to accommodate breakbulk cargo. They are well placed to be involved in refit/construction projects for offshore oil rigs.

In a recent development, the Port of Corner Brook was chosen as the location of a Beothuk Energy facility that will manufacture offshore wind turbines.

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American Journal of Transportation