The Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CRBM) has launched a marketing campaign and a new Website
to promote development of a new container port in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
CRBM purchased about 500 acres of waterfront property in the port from Laurentian Energy Corp. in May. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.,
the local government’s offer of $6 million bested two others from private developers.
The value of the property was improved sharply after a project to dredge the channel to 17 meters (55.7 feet) was completed in January, deep enough to accommodate the largest containerships. Dredge spoils were used to create an additional 150 acres of land.
“For the people and the economy of our region, we are launching this effort with the full support of our community to develop the greenfield site as the future location of an international container terminal. The potential for job creation and long‐term economic growth is critical to the future of Cape Breton,” said CBRM Mayor John W. Morgan.
Promoters of the new “Sydport” container terminal see it as being a source of jobs in an economically depressed part of Canada. According to the government agency Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate at Cape Breton in June was 14.1 percent compared to 9.3 percent for all of Nova Scotia and 7.2 for Canada-wide.
Sydney was once home to Sydney Steel Corp., a major integrated mill, and a major coal mining center with mines that extended five miles out beneath the ocean—but those businesses closed more than a decade ago after many years of decline.
In addition to the port, Laurentian Energy sold the nearly 600-acre Sydport Industrial Park to a group of local businessesmen.
CRBM said it will “explore the potential of entering a long-term concession agreement with an interested terminal operator.”
Gordon Forsyth, a spokesman for the Sydport Gateway project, said it will cost an estimated $350-$400 million to build phase one of the Sydport container terminal.
Sydport is promoting itself as an ideal location for trans-Suez services from Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. The port is located six miles from the sea buoy and is located near Great Circle routes from North Europe and the Mediterranean to the U.S. East Coast.
Sydport said its deep harbor will accommodate the largest containerships and has no air draft issues from bridges. It is located at the terminus of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railroad, which is owned by RailAmerica, and is capable of handling doublestack container trains. The railway connects with Canadian National Railway in Truro, Nova Scotia.
The port said doublestack trains could speed cargo to major markets in Eastern Canada, the Chicago area and Ohio Valley. Feeder ships could also be used to move containers from Nova Scotia to ports on the U.S. East Coast.
While some improvements on the railroad are needed, Forsyth said they are minimal.
He added CRBM is focused on attracting containerized rather than bulk cargo to the port because it would have a greater positive impact on the local community. “The people in the community would be the people working at the container terminal,” he said.
The port said labor agreements are “in progress” with the International Longshoremen’s Association. In addition to jobs unloading and loading ships, he said a container terminal would create repair and equipment maintenance jobs and perhaps distribution centers and transload operations.
Forsyth said the port has had expressions of interest from an ocean carrier, stevedoring company, investment bank, and even a small railroad company, though one that is different from RailAmerica.
In its quest to create a new container terminal in Nova Scotia, Sydney is competing with Melford International Terminal, which is located in Middle Melford on the western side of the Strait of Canso, the waterway which separates Cape Breton Island from the remainder of Nova Scotia.
Melford is working with Maher Terminals, the New Jersey-based company that helped develop and operates the Fairview Container Terminal in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
Sydney and Melford are located about 100 miles apart, and both ports are highlighting advantages similar to those of Prince Rupert, namely the ability to create a modern terminal on a greenfield site, cooperative labor, proximity to overseas markets and the ability to transfer cargo to railroads that can speed containerized imports to inland destinations in Canada and the U.S. Midwest.
“Ultimately the private sector is going to decide which of the ports is developed, based on the economics,” Forsyth said. - Chris Dupin