The Prime Minister visited Cape Breton last week for the first time in his life to announce that indeed the feds will kick in the $19mn balance to fund the $38mn dredging of the harbour by an additional 17 feet. The issue of dredging had become the hottest political item on "the island" in many a moon - with all and sundry in favour of the project. Nova Scotia's premier admitted that it would be political suicide to be against the project. Good thing I'm not a politician.
Of course the dredging is really just the soup before the main course- a $200 mn (in today's dollars) container port that will be the next political must. It will be built to compete with Halifax and Point Melford (which has now received backing from a private investor.)
The Port of Halifax in particular is owned by the taxpayers of Canada, so it is really a question of why the feds would want to build another port to compete with it. But that is an issue for the next election.
Among the statements made in the past to justify the dredging was the import of foreign coal for our power plants. Now that we stand to get Newfoundland hydroelectricity to wean us off coal, this point seems to have faded. It has been replaced by the export of Cape Breton coal. Of course Cape Breton coal is too dirty for us to burn, but it is fine to sell it to somewhere else in the world - if we ever manage to mine anymore.
Gee whiz I am cynical.
As to the dredging itself, the winning bidder for the main part of the work was Van Oord. However their price has likely expired, since the work cannot now begin until next spring when Sydney will be ice free again. My thinking is that the authorities will have to re-tender the work, because the other bidders will squawk. Van Oord (or whoever gets the work) will bring in a foreign flagged trailing suction hopper dredge and do most of the work. There is some clamshell dredging to do, and that will be done by local firms. There is least one wreck to remove and some rock outcrops to blast out. The work will probably be completed by the end of next summer.
Meanwhile southern US ports are tripping over each other to compete for the expected arrival of New Panamax ships when the Panama Canal expansion is completed in 2014. Savannah and Charleston are at war over dredging funds, with Savannah at risk of undermining its historic waterfront if it makes its channel wider. New Orleans, Tampa, you name the port, they are clamoring for the business. Meanwhile Norfolk (and area) are grinning because they can handle the ships now. New York/New Jersey is dredging but they still haven't decided if they will raise or replace the Bayonne Bridge.
Halifax is extending its Halterm pier to accommodate two (current) post-Panamax ships, but so far hasn't revealed what it will do about the new Panamax era. (In fact they will be able to accommodate the new Panamax ships, but there is another generation of Post New Panamax ships on order now.)
Interesting times - stay tuned.