Talk­ing up Syd­ney’s port ad­van­tage in China

CBRM con­sul­tants ready for meet­ings with ship­ping ex­ec­u­tives, in­vestors later this month


The con­sul­tants tasked with drum­ming up busi­ness for the port of Syd­ney said they plan to leave July 19 for meet­ings with high-level ex­ec­u­tives with in­ter­na­tional ship­ping com­pa­nies and in­vest­ment firms in China.

Barry Sheehy of Har­bor Port De­vel­op­ment Part­ners gave an hour brief­ing on some of the work that he and busi­ness part­ner Al­bert Bar­busci have un­der­taken since the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity coun­cil con­firmed last month that the men would have a two-year ex­clu­sive deal to mar­ket Syd­ney as a com­mer­cial gate­way to North Amer­ica.

Bar­busci and Sheehy have al­ready been work­ing with the CBRM for 16 months, in­vest­ing $1.2 mil­lion of their own cap­i­tal into port de­vel­op­ment.

Sheehy said their trav­els would take them to Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Hong Kong. He wasn’t at lib­erty to say what com­pa­nies they’ll be meet­ing with.

How­ever, he said the process of se­cur­ing deals with ship­pers is a long one, and there’s no guar­an­tee they’ll be suc­cess­ful.

Although Sheehy said the pro­ject, so far, is mov­ing ahead in a “very pos­i­tive” man­ner.

He said fi­nance part­ners his group has reached out to be­lieve port de­vel­op­ment in Syd­ney is fea­si­ble.

“We found more than enough Cana­dian cap­i­tal will­ing to fund the pro­ject,” Sheehy said

Har­bor Port De­vel­op­ment Part­ners al­ready has Bech­tel on side con­duct­ing en­gi­neer­ing stud­ies. Bech­tel is the world’s largest pri­vate sec­tor con­struc­tion firm and it has been do­ing pre­lim­i­nary work at the green­field site near Sy­d­port, and has been meet­ing with po­ten­tial con­trac­tors.

All of this work is meant to bring to­gether a con­sor­tium of com­pa­nies to build a con­tainer ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tion in Syd­ney.

“Then we had to reach out to op­er­a­tors,” Sheehy said.

“The key op­er­a­tor we had to seek out first was marine ser­vices. … Con­tain­ers are a big leap. The in­terim leap is marine ser­vices.”

It meant seek­ing out ser­vices that could of­fer such things as bunker­ing, float­ing dry docks, tug­boats, and ship re­pair. One such op­er­a­tion is McK­eil Marine, a Hamil­ton, Ont.- based com­pany, which plans to set up an op­er­a­tion in Sy­d­port.

“When we get float­ing dry docks here, we won’t be send­ing fer­ries to Bos­ton to be ser­viced ev­ery two years. The marine ser­vices fu­ture for this har­bour is very, very ex­cit­ing all by it­self but it was also fun­da­men­tal for us to take the next steps for­ward.”

Sheehy said a ro­bust marine ser­vices in­dus­try could be­come ap­par­ent in the har­bour over the next 12 months.

The process of build­ing a con­tainer ter­mi­nal will take much longer — an ex­pected five- year win­dow, he said.

A lot de­pends on the rail­way and on­go­ing talks with CN Rail, Sheehy added.

Cur­rent rail op­er­a­tor, Ge­ne­see & Wy­oming Inc., is pre­par­ing to aban­don the line in Cape Bre­ton. Un­der rules set out by the Nova Sco­tia Util­ity and Re­view Board, the aban­don­ment process can­not be­gin un­til Oc­to­ber and won’t be com­pleted un­til some­time next spring.

Rail in­fra­struc­ture is the linch­pin, says Sheehy, be­cause it’s what ev­ery ship­ping com­pany wants se­cured be­fore mak­ing a deal.

“We need a re­gional strat­egy, and all this rail ( in the Mar­itimes) needs to be up­graded. That’s a na­tional in­vest­ment. We’re talk­ing about an in­vest­ment on the scale of the (Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way).”

At present, Sheehy said a strat­egy is miss­ing for the At­lantic Gate­way.

Mon­treal should con­sider play­ing a part in the gate­way plan to in­crease in­vest­ment, he said.

The Que­bec gov­ern­ment an­nounced last month $9 bil­lion in public and pri­vate sec­tor spend­ing on the Port of Mon­treal over the next 15 years in an at­tempt to boost em­ploy­ment by 30,000 jobs by 2030.

Mon­treal is the largest Cana­dian port in eastern Canada, han­dling more than one mil­lion con­tain­ers each year.

Sheehy said the Port of Mon­treal is very suc­cess­ful with han­dling small to medium- sized ships in the 4,000 to 6,000 TEUs ( twenty-foot equiv­a­lent units, or con­tain­ers) range.

How­ever, the port won’t have the abil­ity to han­dle the next gen­er­a­tion of su­per­tankers cur­rently be­ing built, he said.

“To the ex­tent Mon­treal wants to par­tic­i­pate in the fu­ture, par­tic­u­larly from a short ship­ping point of view, it would be help­ful to have a base here (in the port of Syd­ney).”



Barry Sheehy of Har­bor Port De­vel­op­ment Part­ners speaks dur­ing a brief­ing on the Syd­ney trans­ship­ment hub pro­ject at the Hol­i­day Inn in Syd­ney, Tues­day morn­ing.

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