Could New Halifax Crane End Sydney’s Port Dream?

Last week, PSA Halifax (formerly Halterm) took delivery of a piece of equipment that may signal the end of the Port of Sydney’s container terminal dream.

The Singapore-based port operator — one of the largest in the world — received a Super Post Panamax (SPPX) crane ordered 18 months ago, prior to PSA International taking over the Southend terminal from Macquarie.

Crane delivery, Port of Halifax. (Photo by Rick Grant)

Crane delivery, Port of Halifax. (Photo by Rick Grant)

The Zhen Hua 29 left Shanghai at the end of April and its arrival in Halifax with PSA’s new crane — the largest of its kind in Eastern Canada — sent a clear message to the Port’s existing and would-be competitors. PSA’s crane, the red-and-white one on the right, at the bow of the ship, is capable of lifting containers more than 51 meters from ground to ship and can reach across 24 containers (or 66 meters) compared to the Port’s other SPPX cranes (two of which can be seen on the left-hand side of the photo) which have a 22-container reach. (The other cranes aboard the Zhen Hua 29 were destined for Europe; the large blue ones for Marseilles, where shipping giant CMA-CGM is headquartered.)

PSA Halifax is already servicing some of the largest ships to call on any Canadian coast — giants like CMA-CGM’s T. Jefferson, with a capacity of 14,400 TEUs (the equivalent of 14,400 20-foot containers) and larger ships of over 15,000 TEU are on the way.

CMA-CGM T.Jefferson

CMA-CGM T.Jefferson at PSA Halifax in March 2020.

Meanwhile, the Halifax Port Authority has almost finished an extension to the PSA Terminal that will allow it to handle two of these ultra large container vessels (ULCVs) simultaneously. Halifax, the only Eastern Canadian Port capable of handling such ships, also offers transcontinental rail service to Central Canada and the Mid-Western United States.

And yet, the Nova Scotia government is keeping the container terminal dreams of Sydney alive by paying $30,000 a month (no receipts required) to Brookfield Asset Management, the Toronto-based buyout firm that, along with GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, bought the American rail operator Genesee & Wyoming and now owns the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway (CBNS). In return, Brookfield has promised not to tear up its Cape Breton tracks.  All in the hope that the Port of Sydney will attract investors prepared to rebuild a rail line and construct a container terminal to rival that of Halifax.


Rick Grantl



Longtime CTV reporter Rick Grant began his television journalism career here on the Island. He is now based in Halifax.