Ac­cess to rail key to port’s suc­cess, says of­fi­cial

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY NANCY KING

Ac­cess to rail is es­sen­tial to port devel­op­ment but there are many un­knowns about how much it will ac­tu­ally cost to make the nec­es­sary up­grades to Cape Bre­ton’s rail line to sup­port a po­ten­tial con­tainer devel­op­ment, a lo­cal port of­fi­cial says.

Mar­lene Usher, CEO of the Port of Syd­ney Devel­op­ment Corp., told Ports Day 2017 that the $30 mil­lion in up­grades that have been iden­ti­fied as be­ing re­quired for the line, which is cur­rently not op­er­at­ing, is prob­a­bly un­der­stat­ing the cost and the port is seek­ing funding part­ners to sup­port a com­pre­hen­sive study to bet­ter de­ter­mine what is re­quired.

“We be­lieve it is likely more than that to achieve the level of class that is re­quired, in­clud­ing dou­ble-stack­ing,” she said.

“It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the scope of the work that is re­quired to up­date the line ... This in­for­ma­tion is es­sen­tial for in­vestors.”

The an­nual ports con­fer­ence was held in Syd­ney Thurs­day at the Joan Har­riss Cruise Pav­il­ion.

Rail line owner Ge­ne­see & Wy­oming have ceased op­er­at­ing the Cape Bre­ton sec­tion of the short line, say­ing the busi­ness case is not there to cur­rently sup­port it. They have not yet ap­plied to aban­don the line, which could see the tracks re­moved. The com­pany has in­di­cated it is will­ing to work with port of­fi­cials.

The is­sue of the up­dated nav­i­ga­tional aids also needs to be ad­dressed, Usher said.

The bal­ance of the $38-mil­lion fund to dredge the har­bour was $2.3 mil­lion and it was to be used for im­prov­ing nav­i­ga­tional aids, fish habi­tat re­ports and mon­i­tor­ing, and for main­te­nance and mon­i­tor­ing of the con­fined dis­posal fa­cil­ity. Some of that money has been used to sup­port the port and its busi­ness ven­tures

“With­out this up­date, ves­sels can­not take ad­van­tage of the dredged depth,” Usher said, adding the port with con­tinue to ad­vo­cate for the project with the Coast Guard.

Usher said they are work­ing to fin­ish the fi­nan­cial and tech­ni­cal fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies on the port devel­op­ment pro­posal.

“We have grown but in my hum­ble opin­ion, I don’t think we

are any­where near our po­ten­tial,” Usher said.

The port is also still work­ing to ac­quire the har­bour bot­tom, which would pro­vide a new rev­enue source for it. She called it a com­plex file, with the col­lec­tion of har­bour dues and also po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal li­a­bil­i­ties, which all have to be ad­dressed prior to a fi­nal agree­ment.

Michael Trethe­way, chief econ­o­mist and strat­egy of­fi­cer with In­ter-VIS­TAS, which pre­pared the po­ten­tial eco­nomic im­pact study of the pro­posed

ter­mi­nal, said they weren’t hired to say whether the plans are re­al­is­tic or not. He did say he thinks the port is well sit­u­ated.

The pro­posed No­va­porte con­tainer ter­mi­nal at Syd­ney har­bour would have four berths, di­rect rail ser­vice and would be con­structed in two stages. Con­struc­tion of phase one is ex­pected to take 2.5 years.

“I can’t un­der­score enough the im­por­tance of the rail link for in­ter­modal con­tain­ers,” Trethe­way said.

“That rail car is es­sen­tial for how things get to mar­ket.”

Con­struc­tion of the con­tainer ter­mi­nal could cre­ate 12,310 per­son years of em­ploy­ment, he said, with the lo­gis­tics park cre­at­ing 26,170 per­son years of em­ploy­ment.

“This is a sig­nif­i­cant jobs im­pact,” Trethe­way said, adding it would mean $2 bil­lion in wages dur­ing con­struc­tion.

At full built-out, Trethe­way said the con­tainer ter­mi­nal could gen­er­ate 4,310 jobs while the lo­gis­tics park could cre­ate 3,640 jobs.

He said the real im­pact from such a devel­op­ment is that the lo­ca­tion be­comes a pop­u­lar place for others to place dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tres.

Port devel­op­ment in Syd­ney has come a long way in the past year but still has a long way to go, Mayor Ce­cil Clarke said. He added he be­lieves they have brought the right team of play­ers — in­clud­ing op­er­a­tor Ports Amer­ica — to­gether to make the project a re­al­ity.

Usher

CAPE BRE­TON POST PHOTO

This file photo shows a view of Syd­ney har­bor from the West­mount side.

Trethe­way

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