Container traffic through the local port jumped by 14.9 per cent last year, Lane Farguson, a communications advisor for the Halifax Port Authority, said in an interview Friday.
Measured in terms of the formerly-standard 20-foot-long containers called TEUs, container traffic through the Port of Halifax rose to 480,722 TEUs last year, with the final quarter of 2016 seeing growth of 11.6 per cent, to 126,178 TEUs compared to the same period the previous year.
“It was a solid year for all involved,” said Farguson.
The record for the amount of container cargo moving through the Port of Halifax was set in 2006, prior to the Great Recession, when traffic was in the 530,000-TEU range.
Driving the port’s 2016 surge in container traffic was the addition of a new route by a huge consortium of shipping lines called the Transport High Efficiency Alliance and a new service by one of its rivals, Ocean Alliance.
Made up of Hapag-Lloyd, K Line, Mitsui O.S.K Lines, Nippon Yusen Kaisha, and Yang Ming shipping lines, THE Alliance’s new route saw more container vessels calling on the Ceres Group’s Fairview Cove Container Terminal as their first stop in North America coming from the Western Mediterranean.
At Halterm’s South End Container Terminal, container traffic got a boost in mid-2016 when Ocean Alliance added a new service, Evergreen Line, which provides added links to Southeast Asia including Hong Kong and Singapore, from Halifax.
Ocean Alliance includes COSCO Container Lines, CMA CGM, and Orient Overseas Container Line in addition to Evergreen.
Other cargo — routinely called non-containerized cargo — also spiked upwards last year to 406,987 metric tonnes, leading the total cargo tonnage to increase 16.2 per cent to roughly 4.46 million metric tonnes.
“Several factors have come together over the past 18 months to contribute to the positive results we are seeing through the Port of Halifax this year,” said Farguson. “The port community in Halifax is working together to minimize transit times, reduce operating costs, mitigate risks and add value to those customers moving goods through Halifax.”
Those connections to other shipping lines and rail and trucking services led the biggest container cargo shipping line in the Caribbean, Tropical Shipping, to ditch the Port of Saint John for Halifax earlier this month.
“Halifax just offered a lot more connectivity to global carriers and to inter-modal opportunities,” said Gordon Cole, Tropical Shipping’s assistant vice-president.
With the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement expected to be ratified later this year, port officials are hoping to see a surge in traffic as lower tariffs fuel exports.
“We’ve been following that (trade agreement) for a number of years and we’re pleased to see where it is heading,” said Farguson.
The Port of Halifax also had a good cruise ship season last summer with a jump of 7.2 per cent in the number of passengers, to more than 238,000 on 136 vessels.