Following a period of decline in container business, the Port of Halifax appears to be back on track thanks to new investments and a series of new services since last year.

Maersk container vessel docked at Halterm, Port of Halifax
Maersk container vessel docked at Halterm, Port of Halifax

“The entire port community has been working to increase cargo volumes,” stated Patrick Bohan, director of supply chain logistics, Halifax Port Authority. “This positive trend has been ongoing since April (2015), and while it is encouraging, there is still much to be done.” The port’s box volume ended 2015 up 4.6% with 418,359 TEUs.

“The goal now is to see this trend continue,” Bohan said, pointing out “there is available capacity at the terminals and on the vessels thanks to the new and expanded services.”

The US Midwest remains a key growth market for the Nova Scotia port which this past February garnered the Importer-Exporter of the Year award from the Midwest Global Trade Association.

Services introduced since early last year include the Grimaldi Group’s Africa-North America service transporting cars from Mediterranean ports; extension of the Eimskip Green Route service from North Europe to Halifax to include a Halifax-Portland connection; and the introduction in August of the Ocean 3 service, or Asia-North America service via the Suez Canal, by alliance partners CMA CGM, China Shipping Container Line and United Arab Shipping Company.

The deepwater port was also given a big boost last August when both Hapag-Lloyd and French carrier CMA CGM launched the first calls to Halifax of container vessels in the 8500-TEU category. For CMA CGM, this coincided with the addition of a Halifax call at Halterm to its Columbus service between Asia and North America.

Since 2004, the Port of Halifax and its stakeholders have invested over C$250 million in infrastructure, including the addition of several post-Panamax cranes and deepening to 55 feet the capacities of the Halterm and Ceres container terminals.

Halterm Upgrading Equipment

The most recent significant investment was the announcement this past winter by Halterm Container Terminal Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, of an additional outlay of C$4.5 million to upgrade equipment in the terminal facility. Two years ago, the company allocated C$20 million for the purchase of two super post-Panamax cranes.

“This ongoing investment makes Halterm an even more attractive proposition to the international shipping companies looking for the most efficient and cost effective way to move cargo in and out of east coast Canada and North America,” according to Ashley Dinning, Halterm’s managing director and CEO.

“There are no operational, navigational or nautical restrictions to ships calling Halterm, which means we can handle the biggest container ships ever likely to call East Coast North America now and into the future,” he said.

The state-of-the-art equipment is slated to arrive in May and June. First will be three front-end loaders (FELs) and eight intermodal terminal tractors. Next will be five ro-ro terminal tractors used to drive trailers into and out of ship holds via ramps.