Port of Halifax Works to Clear Container Backlog

Port of Halifax works to catch up on its backlog
Port of Halifax (file photo)

Published Oct 5, 2020 6:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Halifax, Canada is working to clear a backlog of containers that have been accumulating at its terminals. In part due to the rebound in traffic after the coronavirus related slowdowns in the spring, and then a strike at the neighboring Port of Montreal, Halifax has found itself working to deal with thousands of additional containers passing through the port.

A port spokesperson admitted to the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) that it has been a bit of a logjam at the port. However, they are hopeful that they will finally be able to catch up in the next week. 

Contributing to the backlog was the strike at the Port of Montreal, which is traditionally Canada’s busiest Atlantic seaboard container port. In late July, longshoremen staged a four-day walkabout in Montreal, and then in August, the port was crippled by a two-week strike by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) against their employer the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) to call attention to its working conditions and lack of a contract for the past 18-months. Carriers had begun diverting ships from Montreal to Halifax even before the strike began. 

When work resumed at the terminals in Montreal during the third week of August, officials predicted it would take between two and four weeks to catch up. Six weeks later, dealing with the increased flow of containers experienced in recent weeks, the Port of Halifax is still working to clear the backlog.

Adding to the challenge has been the increased traffic into the Port of Halifax. For example, in September Halifax saw the first calls of two of the largest container ships to ever arrive in Canada. The CMA CGM Group’s CMA CGM Brazil and CGM CMA Panama, each with a carrying capacity of 15,072 TEU, made calls in the port as part of their regular service to South Asia.  

Halifax reports that vessels due from carriers MSC and Hapag-Lloyd will likely clear away most of the delayed containers and get it to their destinations. The MSC Weser, a 2524 TEU vessel, called at Halifax on October 4 and was able to reduce the backlog significantly taking containers to Montreal. The Hapag vessel will call at the port next Monday, October 12, and carry containers to Quebec. Also, CN Rail has been working to assist in clearing the backlog increasing the numbers of containers moving by rail from the port.

The Halifax spokesperson admitted to CBC that it has been a frustrating time all along the supply chain, but they are confident that things are getting back to normal for shippers.