THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING IN HALIFAX

Halterm PSA International has taken charge at Halterm

A new president and CEO, global terminal operator involvement and growing competition shows that 2019 is proving to be an eventful year for the Port of Halifax, as AJ Keyes discovers.

It’s all change at the Port of Halifax (NS). There is a new President and CEO incoming before the end of 2019, arrival of a new global container terminal operator, PSA International, at the Halterm facility and the proposed Laurentia project in Quebec progressing its plans.

The new President and CEO is Captain Allan Gray. He is moving from Fremantle, Australia to this East Coast Canadian port and is expected to be in his new position in late November or early December 2019. Halifax Port Authority Board Chair, Hector Jacques, outlined the rationale of the appointment, stating that “Captain Gray’s extensive experience in leading a large port with similar priorities and economic impact as our own, from container and bulk shipping to cruise and infrastructure projects, will serve the growing Port of Halifax’s needs well.”

One of Captain Gray’s first tasks will be to meet the new terminal operator at one of the port’s two container facilities. PSA International handled 81 million TEU in 2018, including
activities in Singapore, but only secured its first marine operations in North America with the acquisition of Halterm and the Penn Terminals facility on the Delaware River from Macquarie Infrastructure Partners in May 2019.

So, what is the new President and CEO inheriting? Well, generally, container traffic has been increasing since 2014. The 2018 total of 547,000 TEU across both the Halterm facility and the Fairview Cover terminal operated by Cerescorp Company, collectively generating an improvement on the 399,000 TEU handled in 2014.

Plus, cruise continues to be a key activity too, with around 1.3 million visitors annually and a 2019 season of 190 vessels and 320,000 cruise passengers scheduled.

At the same time, the port’s economic impact benefits are also continuing to rise, with the 2018 total of C$1.97 billion being a 15% improvement over the position just two years earlier, according to the port authority.

There are also known infrastructure improvement plans, which both the new President and CEO, plus PSA International, will see as positive developments. There is investment planned at Halterm, as CEO Kim Holtermand confirms. “A new Super Post-Panamax ship-to-shore crane, due June 2020, will offer enhanced outreach (24-wide) and height, capable of spanning the largest vessels being deployed on North America’s east coast and will be added to Halterm’s main berth alongside four existing Super Post-Panamax units and one Panamax unit.”

The ongoing investment is part of other recent developments, including adding more Rubber-Tyred-Gantries (RTGs), which Holterman says is part of “re-focusing the terminal to ensure that we not only meet existing customer requirements, but have a credible plan to realise future growth.”

The investment is required at Halterm, based on the increase in the number and capacity of services to/from the Asian markets.

Dean Davison, Technical Director of WSP’s Maritime & Ports team explained further. “In 2020, we expect likely service upsizes at Halterm, with the Asian services of THE Alliance’s ECS strong shifting to 9,000 TEU vessels and the Ocean Alliance ‘Columbus’ service introducing vessels in the size range to 14,000 TEU. Both services will use vessels too large to access Fairview Cove.

This development is reflected in Halterm adding a fifth super post-Panamax crane in 2020 to enable simultaneously handling of two ultra-large container vessels. These are highly positive developments for Halifax and will help boost cargo volume potential.”

If the proposed Laurentia project in Quebec is developed, then Halifax could see increasing competition for the handling of larger container ships. One of Halterm’s competitive strengths is it being the only (current) east coast Canadian port capable of handling ships up to 16,000 TEU, with onward intermodal rail connectivity to central Canada and the US Midwest.

This will change, if the Laurentian development comes to fruition, with the level of regional port competition increasing. However, an existing cargo base, comparable services to both ports from CN Railway, ongoing infrastructure investment and its own global terminal operator in place leaves Halifax in a strong competitive position.

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