By this time next week, Nova Scotians will learn some more details about a major new container terminal to be built by private investors on the mainland side of the Strait of Canso.

Bob Stevens, CEO of Melford International Terminal Inc., says the group he heads is comfortable enough with the details that it’s time to proceed with an official unveiling of the plans.

Melford International Terminal will be a multimillion-dollar container terminal and transshipment park at the deepwater port in Melford, Guysborough County, all built with private-sector money and without funding from either the federal or provincial governments.

Stevens says there are still a few loose ends to be tied up but the bulk of the plan is ready to go with an official announcement slated for May 29.

The plan is for the $325-million Melford terminal to become a major East Coast entry point for manufactured goods coming from the Far East via ships using the Suez Canal and a transatlantic voyage to arrive in North America.

Stevens believes the undeveloped site in Melford provides the best opportunity for a consortium like his to build this type of highly efficient terminal operation, more quickly and with fewer complications, than could be done at any other East Coast port.

While Nova Scotians are familiar with how container terminals operate, the plans for the Melford facility would be much more extensive than just simply the unloading and loading of ships.

The goods would arrive on the giant container vessels, which could not be easily handled at most other ports due to the significant water depth required. The deep water at Melford also allows the huge harbour at the Strait to host a major transshipment operation, says Stevens.

Some containers could be taken directly from the larger ships and quickly loaded onto smaller vessels for swift delivery to other ports, he says, but there are also plans for the creation of a “logistics park” on land adjacent to the terminal.

The logistics portion of the port development would allow companies to open cargo as it arrives from overseas and repackage it for distribution to their operations in other parts of North America.
Melford terminal is projecting about 500 construction jobs will be created over the 24 months it will take to finish building all phases of the project. Once in business, the company expects there will be about 90 workers per shift handling containers. Many more jobs would be created at the logistics park as companies reorganize and repackage product.

There may be concern that Melford will lure container business away from Halifax, but Stevens says “a rising tide lifts all boats” and there will be plenty of business to go around even if Halifax’s two
container terminals were expanded to maximum capacity.

A study funded by the Melford group indicates that North American container ports will exceed capacity by 2013 as the import of goods from overseas increases.

In order to cope with a dramatic increase in world cargo coming here, primarily from China and India, the U.S. and Canada will need more than three times their current capacity by 2020, according to the report prepared by American port development expert John Vickerman. For that reason, he states, the shipping industry needs to find a new and more efficient way of bringing cargo to North America.

Land transportation is included in plans for Melford. The development company has priced in the cost of extending a spur railway line to the terminal and construction of a highway to the site.
This is important news for Nova Scotia, which has recently experienced setbacks with several plant closures.

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Roger Taylor’s column appears Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.