Leveraging the Port of Halifax

Although you won’t read about it in the local media, the issue of port congestion is becoming a real problem for the North American transportation network. The rapid rise of Asian imports in to western Canadian and U.S. ports has led to so much congestion that ships are waiting several weeks in some cases to unload their cargo.

So the Canadian government has responded by investing millions into a port in the hinterland of British Columbia as an alternative to Vancouver. Mexico is getting in on the act and investing tens of millions into one of its ports to be the alternative entry point for these goods.

However, because of this trend and others such as the larger cargo ships coming on the market, it may start to make good sense to ship Asian goods through the Suez Canal to eastern North American ports.

The Port of Halifax should jump all over this trend. In the past 15 years, cities that have dynamic and successful ports in North America have grew, on average, at twice the rate of the average North American city. Ports are a catalyst for growth.

And, except for a bottleneck right at the port in Halifax, our roads are the envy of North America for their lack of congestion – basically right down to the I-495 around Boston.

A new study out just last week called the situation critical. It’s time for government (Nova Scotia and Federal) to realize the strategic nature of the Port of Halifax to the Maritime Provinces economy and if they see the wisdom of investing millions into a Northern BC port with limited highway infrastructure, they should also see the wisdom in increasing port traffic in Halifax with excellent highway infrastructure.

Or we can spend the money on EI.

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0 Responses to Leveraging the Port of Halifax

  1. Anonymous says:

    If that’s the case wouldn’t it also make sense that if ships have to ‘wait’ at Halifax then they can also be routed to other ports-namely St.John.
    With ‘just in time’ inventory systems it would be far more cost effective to dock into Saint John than stand in line in Halifax. In fact, the port could charge ships less as an extra incentive to dock in St.John, however, I heard somewhere that port fees are set by the feds.
    The other point is that docking in St.John is closer to where the freight is going, although Maine might start making the same argument.
    Something else to consider is that increasing attention is being paid to the northern passage because of global warming. This would seem to present future opportunities for a place like Bathurst, which would be the closest mainland port. No doubt highways would be planned for James Bay to southern Ontario, however, with a good highway from Bathurst across to Edmunston you’d have a trip that’s approximately the same and would have decreased costs because Quebec city and Montreal would be on the same route.

  2. David Campbell says:

    You make a good point. I don’t claim an expertise around the issue of port infrastructure. If Halifax has a much more developed infrastructure, from a regional perspective, it may make more sense to focus efforts there. But ultimately, it’s about trying to harness this significant new trend to benefit the region.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Screw the region-how does more jobs in Halifax help US! As you said before: ‘getting our pants beat off by Nova Scotia’ shouldn’t mean we’re throwing in the towel and sending all the port freight to them. Capitalism is a bloody sport, if you aren’t winning you’re starving. Heck, we don’t even have toll highways so with our nice new highway all the companies can be located in Nova Scotia, ship to Ontario, and New Brunswick gets squat. It seems just about every region in history has known how to get rich as a trade route-until ours. Whether it’s natural gas, forestry or trucking, NB politicians seem to have figured out how to get the minimal benefit out of every industry.

  4. The Virginian. says:

    I agree with you David, we need to take full advantage of the quality infrastructure in place in Halifax. This will be beneficial to all of Atlantic Canada or Atlantica as proposed by Brian Lee Crowley. NB’s part could be with “Land Ports”. NB needs to plan and ste-up such landports making us the leader in the flow through of goods from Halifax to USA and Quebec-Ontario. This is our future, but its happenning now.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What the heck is a ‘land port’? An Irving station?

  6. Anonymous says:

    The landport issue is an intriguing one, anything that benefits New Brunswick is worth exploring. How would a land port be designed?

  7. The Virginian says:

    Your partly right, landports are huge marshalling areas which include all services require by the transportation industry. Its a secure compound, hightech security etc… situated about 6 hrs away from each other. Very popular in the US and allows truck drivers to get back home almost everyday and have a family life. Helps solve recruiting problems for trucking industry, not away all week long thousands of miles away. With secure area easy transfer of goods and electronic tracking of goods, speeds up border crossing. Jobs, jobs, jobs.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The problem would be that in a country with high unemployment (unlike the US, Maine’s unemployment is 5%) finding truckers doesn’t seem to be a problem. So it’s quite a gamble and essentially means all those ‘jobs jobs jobs’ are all low wage trucking jobs. Not to mention the assumption seems to be that WE should fund these stations. Isn’t it enough that Irving gets dibs on any of the best spots on the highway? However, I’d certainly love to see better working conditions for truckers-but that doesn’t seem to be the industry aims. Even truck stops emphasize lounges, internet, video games and televisions. I would think exercise rooms would be far more beneficial.

    I still think the province would be far better off with a toll on the highway. This is what most trade route nations or empires have done. Middle eastern countries made fortunes charging a miniscule tax on the massive amount of products destined to the west from the east (and vice versa). Right now on the toll highway taxpayers still pay the company based on how much traffic is on it, which means as more truck traffic goes through, the more taxpayers pay. With tolls that would be money from Nova Scotia and Ontario trucking companies.

    Meanwhile, of course, I checked and Saint John has 24 docking points at its port. I’m still fuzzy on why we in New Brunswick would be forsaking our own jobs and port in favour of Nova Scotia.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is about ‘leveraging the port of St.John’ so may be out of line here. However, I was at the Port Authorities websites-Halifax and St.John. Both are extremely busy ports, Halifax has more terminals but essentially has a different business plan.

    St.John port is geared primarily toward oil, no doubt Irving’s oil, while Imperial Oil has terminal in Halifax.

    St.John shipping, from a quick search, has a couple cruise ships, but mostly oil, lumber, and a terminal just for Potash.

    Both terminals are able to take the ‘Post Panamax’ ships being talked about by AIMS and the Atlantica people, and Halifax currently has one dedicated port for automotive transport.

    I would bet on the northen passage opening up before we see trade agreements between NAFTA and the EU, it looks already like Canada’s trade with the US is on shaky ground. Likewise, the Panama Canal is currently being expanded, so that’s no guarantee that shipping will suddenly start coming across the atlantic. I agree that it would be hard to compete with Halifax since they are the closest port.

    For St. John though, what might be interesting is that if we had tolls on the highways it might then be cheaper for ships to dock in St.John. WHile I understand that ‘big business’ just wants cheap shipping, I think there is a point where there has to be something in it for New Brunswick rather than paying their transport.

  10. David Campbell says:

    All I can say is that ‘The Virginian’ should be advising the folks at Business New Brunswick. The Maritime provinces, I think, are well positioned to be the entry point into the North American market and NS and NB should be doing things to make this happen. And while I don’t claim much specific knowledge in this area, I do know that coastal communities with successful ports have grown twice as fast as those that don’t.

    And regarding ‘Anonymous’ and his/her comments about low wage jobs, I keep getting people complaining about low wage jobs – call centres, truckers, assembly line workers, yadda, yadda, yadda. Where are these mythical ‘high paying’ jobs. For me, attracting ‘decent’ jobs that pay good wages and benefits would be a good start.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The point is that I agree-port cities are hugely important and ‘grow’. So why pass that up for Halifax when Saint John is a deep water port? Why not tailor Saint John for certain industries as is done now for potash and lumber, but offer discounts for certain types of ships or industries.
    Are you guys honestly saying you’d rather have trucking jobs than port jobs? It’s quite easy to have both. If the ‘region’ benefits, like Halifax, then the ‘land ports’ are still an option. Are you saying you ONLY want trucking jobs? If so many ships start coming then Saint John could benefit enormously, especially if invested in (if it even needs it). Port jobs are even better, no travel at all.

  12. David Campbell says:

    I must admit, I have more exposure to the Port of Halifax. My knowledge of the Port of Saint John is limited. However, I fully agree with you that New Brunswick should be focused on that port as the benefits from any growth at the POH would be mostly felt in Nova Scotia.

    I did a project in Parrsboro a few years ago and was shocked to find out that a hundred years or so ago, that town was a thriving and bustling port town. In 1905, Parrsboro had more population than Calgary. After it became irrelevant as a port and the main highway bypassed the community, it slowly dried up and now is just another dying rural community with old beautiful homes as a legacy of what once was.

    There is, I think, a lesson in here for Saint John. The main highway already bypasses the city and if the port losses its dominance, it could become Parrsboro…

  13. Anonymous says:

    The last time I checked it is still a double lane highway between Moncton and Saint John.
    BTW: more goods flow through Calais than Houlton. So much for the benefit of the “main highway”.

    Pushing POH over POSJ. Very silly. You love to quote comparisons between the provinces…and when it comes to brainstorming on your blog… Halifax immediately comes to mind first??!!

    Why is it Saint John does not enter the consciousness of people from Moncton?

  14. David Campbell says:

    No need to get nasty. If you read my blog, you will see that I am a big supporter of Saint John. I have said that I want it to regain its status as a major economic powerhouse. New Brunswick needs all three urban centres to be strong and vibrant in order to lift up the economy of the whole province. All I am saying is that the region should try and leverage this new transportation reality and if Saint John can position itself, then great – in fact, wonderful. Saint John since the 1950s has hardly grown at all (Saint John county had the same population in 1955 as today). So I applaud all efforts (energy hub, for example) to get the economy moving again. I am also a huge supporter of the four lane highway connecting Saint John to Bangor, ME. Because without it, I fear that shipping patterns will shift and Saint John will be marginalized.

    I fail to see how open discussion about the challenges facing Saint John can be construed as ‘Moncton’ versus ‘Saint John’.

    Let’s face it. Saint John was once on par with Halifax and it was as big as Detroit (circa 1900). We need more from Saint John and if that is somehow anti-Saint John, then so be it.