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Halifax Port Authority launches online survey on possible expansions in the future

FILE - The container ship Zim Alabama unloads at the South End Container Terminal in Halifax on Wednesday, July 27, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The Halifax Port Authority has launched an online survey in an attempt to educate the public and gauge its response to any future expansions of the port’s infrastructure.

The HPA positions itself as generating “more than 12,400 jobs” and contributing over “$1.7 billion in impact” to the Canadian economy and stresses that expansion is necessary if it is to compete in the global shipping market.

At stake is the ability to allow multiple “ultra-class” container ships into the Halifax port.

READ MORE: Port of Halifax outlines plan to expand south-end container terminal

Currently, Halifax’s port is only capable of berthing one ultra-class ship at a time and the HPA claims shipping companies need a minimum of two ultra-class berths to “avoid potentially costly delays.”

It’s a conundrum that the port authority says will result in the shipping industry choosing to “bypass Halifax and use U.S. ports,” costing Halifax jobs and affecting the economy — that is, unless the port begins expanding its infrastructure to permanently create a berth for a second ultra-class ship while also expanding rail capacity.

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The HPA says it has already begun constructing a temporary solution to allow two ultra-class container ships into the port but it’s only a temporary fix.

The port authority presents two detailed options in the survey, which can be found on the HPA’s website.

Expansion to Dartmouth

The first option is to create a container terminal in Dartmouth at a cost of $1.415 billion — three or four times more than other options included in the survey. The hefty price tag would be on top of purchasing land for the terminal, a new 22.5 km rail line and new rail storage yard.

The HPA says this would remove truck and rail traffic from downtown Halifax and shift them to Dartmouth but could cause issues with existing operations at the port while possibly displacing cargo ships during construction.

It’s estimated that the project would be finished in 15-plus years.

WATCH: Port of Halifax explores expansion options

Click to play video: 'Port of Halifax explores expansion options' Port of Halifax explores expansion options
Port of Halifax explores expansion options – Jan 25, 2019

Expanding Halifax’s existing terminal

The second option is to expand the HPA’s existing terminal, known as Halterm.

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The proposal would see Halterm, which is located next to Point Pleasant Park, expand northward into the Ocean Terminal area that traditionally serves as an area to dock cruise ships.

HPA says the expansion would allow for the construction of new rail and terminal capacity at the cheapest cost — only $416 million.

It would not impact views from Point Pleasant Park and could be “integrated with a truck solution” for downtown Halifax.

However, it would also require the relocation of the existing Ocean Terminal users and tenants. It would only take three years to complete once the HPA received approval.

READ MORE: Halifax 2019 cruise ship season expected to have record number of guests

Future consultations

The HPA says consultants it has hired have recommended the Halterm expansion as the best choice as it is the most cost-effective option, offers the least impact on parks and carries the lowest risk.

The port authority says the online survey is only the first in a series of consultations that will be held to assess the interests of Haligonians.

Details on what those consultations might look like have yet to be determined.

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