Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include a PSA statement.
PSA International will take control of Halterm after winning the bid for the largest container terminal in eastern Canada, giving the Singapore-based company an east coast presence and underscoring Halifax’s potential to feed Canadian and US markets even more.
PSA beat out a joint bid by Canadian National Railway and CMA CGM, Montreal-based Logistec, and others for the terminal, currently owned by Australia’s Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, three people close to the matter told JOC.com. Through its CN rail connection — connecting to Toronto, Montreal, and Chicago — and its ability to handle ships up to 16,000 TEU, Halifax has drawn comparisons to the port of Prince Rupert in its ability to provide US shippers an alternate routing option to their domestic ports.
In an email confirming the Halterm agreement, PSA said it also acquired Penn Terminals, a multipurpose terminal in Pennsylvania from Macquarie. PSA said it's seeking regulatory approvals for the Halterm and Penn Terminals from Canadian and US authorities, respectively.
The securing of the Halterm terminal also continues a trend of global terminal operators entering the Canadian market, largely due to an upswing in container growth and the ability to also serve US markets from the facilities. PSA in August announced its taking of a 60 percent stake in the Ashcroft Terminal inland port about 210 miles east of the port of Vancouver.
DP World in 2016 took over the container terminal at Saint John, New Brunswick, following the Dubai-based terminal operator’s purchase of the Fairview Container Terminal in Prince Rupert the prior year. The Dubai-based terminal operator also runs the Centerm facility at Vancouver.
Container growth at Halifax stalled in 2018, but the prospect for stronger growth remains, considering volume through the Nova Scotia gateway jumped 50 percent over the last five years, largely thanks to attracting new Asia services. The port is currently undergoing a two-step expansion project aimed at helping it to better service the mega-ship calls anticipated by 2020. The port, with a 52-foot draft, has an annual handling capacity of 1.13 million TEU through its two container terminals.
The planned temporary expansion of the Halterm terminal will increase the berth length from 2,165 feet to 2,890 feet, enabling it to handle two ships of more than 10,000 TEU at once. The second stage of the plan, which is still under discussion, would provide a long-term solution to the expected rise in vessel size and cargo volumes. A strong contender is the expansion of the Halterm terminal to create a second permanent berth and increase container storage space.
Ten years ago, CN and Prince Rupert began to position the western Canadian port to attract Asian cargo bound for Canada and the United States. Now, volumes are growing so quickly that the port is undergoing another expansion to bring its capacity up to 1.8 million TEU.
Container volume through Canada’s top four ports rose 4.8 percent to 5.8 million TEU. The calculation includes laden and empty container volume through Halifax.