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Creating port of choice in Halifax

HALIFAX, N.S. - The Port of Halifax is getting some needed attention by its stakeholders in order to create a more competitive port, where Halifax would be considered the port of choice for shippers.I...

HALIFAX, N.S. – The Port of Halifax is getting some needed attention by its stakeholders in order to create a more competitive port, where Halifax would be considered the port of choice for shippers.

In mid-2002, the Halifax Port Authority (HPA) engaged in a stakeholder planning process, and one of the outcomes of this process was that there is a need for a structured mechanism to discuss the issues key port and business stakeholders face.

From this was spawned the Smart Port Forum, which is designed to facilitate the discussion of issues and opportunities within the Port of Halifax.

The goals of this initiative are to increase productivity, reduce cost, use technology more effectively, add value to the port’s services and initiate branding.

“We should be a catalyst for economic development as a strategic port in Canada,” says George Malec, vice-president of operations and security for the HPA.

The community has come together to make the port the focal point of movement to and from North America, says Malec, it is of tremendous importance to the citizens, the economy and the well being of not only Maritimers but all Canadians.

“The Port of Halifax is a key economic asset, and the ability to bring the business leaders and port stakeholders together to solidify a common vision for the port bodes well for a strong future,” says Karen Oldfield, HPA president and CEO.

The port’s success and competitiveness has a direct result on the trucking community that uses both Halterm and Cerescorp container terminals.

On Jan. 15, key port stakeholders, including many from the trucking industry, converged to discuss the issues surrounding the port.

Ralph Boyd, president of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, says the meeting generated positive directions and enthusiasm.

“We want to create an environment that can grow,” says Boyd. “There is a real opportunity here and that’s why we are at the table, we are conducting a constructive process that I think will turn out positive results.”

The port’s vision is to be a leading viable North American gateway port and Malec says developing Smart Port is an important part of delivering this vision.

“Smart Port is a very all-encompassing thing. There are many aspects that go towards the overall composition of the port’s activity. The Jan. 15 meeting dealt with trucking issues, but the day before we discussed rail concerns, so it is targeted on a very broad basis in order to ensure we are addressing all issues,” says Malec.

To date, the main topic of discussion for the trucking industry has been truck marshalling and handling at the Halterm terminal. This contributes to excessive wait times at both terminals which affects the efficiency of the operation, by bringing the number of contracts the port can turn around coming in and out of the container terminals down.

“I can very easily say the trucking industry, at this time, has been baring all of the costs of waiting with no hope of recovery from our customers, and the fact is we can’t continue this in the future and a solution must be found,” Boyd says.

Smaller committees were created as a result of the meeting, and it was decided that within 30 to 60 days, the working group of trucking industry members will come together to flesh out the concerns for each terminal in order to bring them back to the larger forum.

Cost and productivity are the driving forces behind providing value for customers, says Malec.

“The critical issues are how much it costs to bring the cargo through Halifax and how effectively the cargo is handled in the supply chain. And the role of the HPA is to maximize those issues to retain and grow business here. That is what we exist to do,” says Malec.

Boyd says the ultimate benefit of creating the most efficient port operation won’t be for the trucking community but for the customers they serve.

“Whether it be the customers that we serve directly, or the customers that the terminal operators serve,” says Boyd. “I mean that’s truly who we’re working for – the end user, the receiver of those goods – and it’s extremely important that we keep focused on that.”

On the whole, the Smart Port Forum is serving the important purpose of deriving a balanced plan for the future state of the port.

“I like what has been done to this point,” says Boyd, “I am looking forward to, reviewing the processes at both terminals and hopefully finding enough movement there that will allow us to resolve the issues we have.”

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