This month, we spoke with Karen Oldfield, President & CEO, Halifax Port Authority. The world’s largest shipping lines call on the Port of Halifax, connecting the port to more than 150 countries. The beautiful Halifax Seaport is a premier destination, attracting more than 1.3 million visitors each year.
Tell us about the Port of Halifax and the opportunities/challenges ahead.
Global shipping is evolving at a tremendous pace. Vessels being deployed along East Coast trade lanes are getting bigger, so it is very important that deep water, big ship ports like Halifax have the necessary infrastructure in place to accommodate those larger vessels. There are several projects either on-going or in development right now that will keep Halifax in the game.
The extension of the South End Container Terminal is underway, and it will add 135 metres of berth space to the existing 665 metre pier, providing a continuous berth length of 800 metres. This is important because this will provide the necessary length to berth and service two ultra-class vessels at the same time. These are very large cargo vessels that are approaching 400 metres overall length and we are already starting to see them in Halifax and other deep-water ports on the East Coast. To remain competitive, we need to be able to berth and service two of those vessels, and the berth extension underway will be in place by this time next year.
In addition to that, the Federal Government recently announced a major investment of $47.5 million for two projects that will increase capacity and significantly reduce port-related truck traffic in downtown Halifax. There are several possibilities to better utilize existing infrastructure for trucks to pick up and drop off containers instead of transiting to the South End Container Terminal. This is all very early and details are being worked out, and we are working with our partners to refine options.
Longer term, we are considering options for a terminal expansion that will increase yard capacity and capability, and for anyone who is interested, they can visit our planning website, www.portcityhfx.ca to find out more.
What do you see as the greatest advantages of operating a business in Halifax?
There are many, and that is backed up by the surge in development we are currently experiencing. There is a work-life balance here that is not found in many other places, and that is becoming increasingly important for the next generation of workers and young people we are trying to attract to the region. Our post-secondary education system is excellent and because of that, we have a very well-educated and talented workforce from which companies can draw.
I was at a conference recently where one of the speakers talked about the challenges associated with an aging population, but this person also pointed out the opportunities that many of us overlook. The retiring workers have a tremendous wealth of knowledge that they are passing to the next generation; entrepreneurs and small business owners are in the process of succession planning and in many cases, there are opportunities for young people to acquire already established businesses; and then there is the simple fact that as one generation retires, it creates opportunities for those who follow. I think it is a very exciting time to be in Halifax, and I am seeing a great deal of optimism.
Hiring youth is important to the economic growth of Nova Scotia - what is the Port of Halifax doing?
Keeping our young people here is critical. And I don’t mean just our Nova Scotia sons and daughters. Because of our strong post-secondary education system, there are many international students who attend our colleges and universities, and many of them would love to stay and work once they’ve graduated. We need to work together to create the opportunities for them to do that.
The Halifax Port Authority takes on several students each year for job shadowing and training. Most of them are with us through the summer between semesters, but we also take on work-term placement students throughout the year, and we work with them to help them transition into the job market. It’s a point of pride when we see one of our students go on to enter the workforce. We also work closely with groups like the Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship (COVE) and Volta to lend expertise where we can, and perhaps more importantly, learn from the young people they are associated with.
Learn about the Port of Halifax's plans for expansion at www.portcityhfx.ca