Thursday, December 6, 2018

Halterm Expansion - continued

Following up on yesterday's post comes today's news that CN Rail has made a preliminary offer to acquire the Halterm operation from Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, owners since 2007. CN's offer includes an undisclosed partner and is part of a larger strategic plan by CN to expand its eastern interests and that includes two other ports, one in Nova Scotia and one on the St.Lawrence River.

There is much speculation on what the other ports may be. Quebec City would certainly be one, but so is the Ceres terminal at Fairview Cove in Halifax (also reported to be available for purchase) and even the proposed Melford project on the Strait of Canso. CN's plan is to make Halifax the "Prince Rupert of the east" and would involve a major upgrade in its Halifax rail infrastructure to allow it to assemble complete trains at Halterm. Presently trains of up to 12,000 feet are assembled in the crowded Rockingham yard with cars brought from Halterm, Ceres and CN's intermodal terminal near pier 9.

CN shunting currently blocks road access to Halterm at least twice a day for several minutes at a time.

Assembling a complete train at Halterm would be a more efficient process, and a separate train from Fairview and the intermodal terminal could then be assembled in the Rockingham yard. Similarly arriving trains would run directly into Halterm without requiring a lot of shunting at Rockingham.

CN's southend rail yard is outside the gates of Halterm, but could be reconfigured. 

Entrance track to Halterm at far right.
CN south end yard also serves the deepwater piers, the grain elevator and the VIA Rail station and discourages visitors from its land with varying degrees of success.

There are many other aspects that remain to be discovered during this sale process - specifically the impact on road traffic in downtown Halifax and the future of commuter rail sharing CN's tracks from suburban areas to downtown. If Halterm's perimter were to expand (again) would there be through traffic on Marginal Raod, through the port?

Meanwhile work on the berth 42 extension has started in earnest, with the removal of the pedestrian walkway along the present extension. Yesterday's photo shows that some of the walkway had already been removed.

Sawcutting away the pier 42 walkway to allow for expansion.

Today crews were busy sawing off some more. This is a big boo-hoo for ship watchers and others who use the breakwater and walkway for exercise, but I have been assured by the Chairman of the Port that there will be a walkway as part of the new expansion.

 Nevertheless illustrations of the new addition do not show a walkway on the extension. The breakwater itself has been gated off so even that section of the walk that will not be effected by construction is no longer accessible.

Halterm has all berths filled and two ships waiting this morning, so an expansion is obviously in order. My contention that smaller ships should go to Fairview would certainly relieve this pressure, but would never happen if the two terminals are competitors as they are now.

Asian Sun waits at anchor to load for Tropical Shipping, while Halterm works Eimskip's EF Eva.

I have heard no mention recent;y of  a CN "land bridge" that would connect CN's west coast terminal at Prince Rupert (by coincidence also called Fairview) with Halifax. A "Fairview to Fairview" train would cut days off the Asia to Europe sea route and could serve the US mid-west and east coast by "peeling off" trains at various CN terminals en route. But this is part of much bigger picture.

Last night the tug Mister Joe arrived with the dredge Derrick No.4 and work boat J.F.WHalen on deck.  Currently docked at pier 9, they are being readied to begin dredging.

Over the coming months Shipfax will be monitoring the southward expansion of Halterm, but I will try not to be totally preoccupied with the project.


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