EDITED BY STAFF, TRANSCONTINENTAL MEDIA
The Nova Scotia Business Journal
Playing politics with port development isn’t right, says the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce. This position was taken in the wake of recent public comments by Herald Theriault, Liberal MLA for Digby-Annapolis, decrying public investment in new Nova Scotia port capacity in light of a decline in business at Halifax.
“Mr. Theriault is playing politics, and that is just plain wrong,” says Owen Fitzgerald, president of the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce. “More importantly, his is misrepresenting the facts in the case of the Ports of Sydney. Consideration of public investment in Sydney is centred on dredging the port channel. This unlocks the port to an array of potential developments, of which one is a container terminal.”
The Chamber is concerned that commenting as he has, Theriault is putting the proposed dredging at risk. A failure to deepen the channel brings into question the entire Xstrata Donkin Mine project, as it weighs on the economics of coal shipments. As well, it impacts power generation costs because NSP will not have the option of brining in coal in optimized volumes to achieve best economies.
The business case for a container terminal at Sydney doesn’t contemplate stealing business from Halifax. To the contrary, a terminal at Sydney would open Nova Scotia to a type of container opportunity that it currently cannot address for lack of appropriate port infrastructure. Sydney is pursuing the largest of container vessels – ships so large that accessing Halifax is impractical. Furthermore, the Sydney project is being advanced on the basis of a private sector joint venture that hasn’t asked for public investment in a terminal.
Topping the list of new infrastructure priorities for the Chamber of Commerce is the dredging of Sydney Harbour. Once access to the Harbour is improved through dredging, the Port of Sydney will have few rivals and dredging is the key to unlock the huge potential of the Harbour.
“Our port is our greatest asset for economic development in CBRM,” Fitzgerald says. “Think of dredging like you would twinning of the highway between New Glasgow and Port Hawkesbury – it opens up many new economic opportunities.”
When looking at Melford, there are different economics at play. Melford is looking at a $400 million construction cost, compared to a $200 million cost for the Sydney Terminal. Melford also requires rail lines and a highway to the site. The Melford costs and infrastructure needs will clearly affect the economics of the project. Sydney’s unique economics for these larger container ships gives the port a competitive edge beyond any other port.
While currently in the midst of a recession and with the best experts indicating 2009 will be tough, we can expect a recovery to be well underway before the Sydney terminal opens in 2010.