The general manager of operations for Australia’s Port of Fremantle will become the next CEO of the Halifax Port Authority as the Canadian port undergoes a sweeping expansion driven by annual cargo volumes that have increased by near double-digits in the last five years.
Captain Allan Gray will assume his new position in November, replacing Karen Oldfield, who steps down after 17 years. Oldfield had sought to leave last December but agreed to stay on for another year.
Gray comes to Halifax, the Canadian east coast’s second-largest port, amid a temporary expansion of its existing berth that will allow it to handle two 10,000-TEU vessels at a time by 2020. The port is also planning a second expansion phase that will increase capacity on a more permanent basis.
Fremantle, with two container terminals, handled almost 790,000 TEU in 2018 — about 45 percent more cargo than Halifax handled last year. The World Atlas listed Fremantle as one of Australia’s five biggest ports by tonnage handled in 2017.
Gray was the unanimous choice by the board among candidates identified in a search by Boyden, a Vancouver-based international talent recruitment firm, the port authority said.
“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 expansion projects, will serve the growing Port of Halifax’s needs well,” board chair Hector Jacques said in a statement Thursday.
Gray joined the Port of Fremantle as deputy harbor master and manager of marine and port operations in 2006, rising to general manager of port operations and harbor master in 2008, according to his LinkedIn profile. He is president of the International Harbour Masters Association, and spent 20 years at sea on roll-on, roll-off; container, and bulk vessels, as well as LPG tankers, according to the website of the Australian Maritime College, of which he is a board member.
Gray said he was “excited” to join Halifax, adding he looked forward to supporting “the development, alignment and implementation of the port’s vision and strategy to grow as Canada’s Ultra Atlantic Gateway.”
Halifax faces cargo growth
Cargo growth through Halifax has picked up this year, after a lull in 2018. Cargo through the port increased 3 percent in the first half of 2019, to 282,990 loaded and unloaded TEU, compared with the same period last year, according to port figures. The 3 percent increase was about the same as the growth through Canada’s four biggest ports as a whole over the same period, figures from the port websites show.
Cargo volumes through the port declined 2 percent in 2018, to 547,445 loaded and unloaded TEU, compared with the same period in 2017, port figures show. That was the first annual loss since 2014. From 2014 to 2017, cargo volumes increased 68 percent, from 334,641 to 547,445 loaded and unloaded TEU, the figures show.
The first phase of the port’s expansion will increase the berth at the South End Container Terminal from 2,165 feet to 2,890 feet by 2020. In the second phase, the port, which has a depth of 52 feet, is exploring how best to increase capacity permanently. A strong possibility is the expansion of the Halterm terminal to create a second permanent berth.
The port is also launching a C$95 million (US$70 million) project to increase flow and cut congestion by installing additional rail lines and cranes to enable terminals to more quickly handle cargo volumes.