Category Archives: port

Port of Halifax Commences Berth Extension




the Following release was issued by the port today:

The Board of Directors of the Halifax Port Authority and the CEO are pleased to confirm that the work on the temporary South End Container Terminal berth extension has commenced, implementing its August 2018 board decision and announced at Halifax Port Days.

 The berth extension will ensure that the Port of Halifax will continue to be a vital link in the Canadian supply chain, facilitate global economic ties and provide access to international markets for importers and exporters.

 Construction is anticipated to be complete in Q1 of 2020.

A tender was recently issued, closing Nov 2 for the Dredging of the expanded area.

File Photo from the previous pier expansion work.

How can Halifax Mitigate Trucks to the Port? look to Vancouver.

The issue of trucks to the Port recently was cited by the federal government as a reason to deny funding to modify Halterm and the Halifax Ocean terminals to accommodate multiple ultra class container ships. these ships, which are 10,000+ teu vessels are supplanting smaller ships on more routes, as carriers form alliances, and look to find efficiencies.

But are trucks really that big a problem? The port of Halifax has an 80/20 split rail vs trucks. in 2017, the port handled 559,242 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU). A 2016 study conducted for the city counted 648 trucks in a 24 hour period. This is just over 300 vehicles. By Comparison, Hollis street sees 700 vehicles in an hour during peak times.

I conducted 2 polls via twitter. while they have a selection bias, the results were interesting. the first poll found that 39% of respondents felt that trucks to the port were the worst downtown traffic, however, 61% thought something else was worse. The Road Train (19%) Harbour Hopper (15%) and cyclists (27%) combined are more hated then trucks.i found it interesting that for all the talk they get, more people are actually annoyed by another group of road users, which are actully largely seasonal.

follow up conversations actually identified couriers and people illegally stopping as a big problem for all road users, as their stops block lanes, and sidewalks and force people to have to go out of their way to avoid them.

I also conducted a second poll to see how many trucks people thought were traversing downtown to the port. 33% of respondents thought there were more trucks then there actually are, with 14% believing there are over twice as many as there really are.

So seemingly the problem may not be as bad as we think it.

I reached out to the Port of Vancouver, which has 2 terminals, Centerm and Vanterm, just east of downtown. In 2017 the Port of Vancouver Handled 3,252,223TEU. I asked the port how they handled trucks.

The Port of Vancouver is an interesting case study for a Number of reasons. First – like Halifax, the port facilities are located through communities away from highway access. Second, Vancouver is ranked consistently as one of the most livable cities in the world, and third, thier port operations are significantly bigger then ours, so if their solutions are working, then that should be adoptable here.

I was told by Chris Clarke, a spokesperson for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority that 2/3 of the ports cargo arrives by rail, and 1/3 by truck. Vancouver therefore has many more trucks then Halifax does. Vancouver also lacks direct highway access.

The Port of Vancouver has a community liaison committee to collect feedback and offers a feedback line where residents can call in to report issues including noise.  Vancouver worked with the Province of BC to institute a truck licensing process. Trucks delivering to the port, must meet certain age and environmental standards to be permitted port access. Clarke also told me that they work with local law enforcement to ensure trucks operate safely, and meet standards.

One interesting thing the Port of Vancouver mentioned is that they try to route trucks over fresh pavement. by smoothing out the ride, they are able to keep noise from rattling empty containers down.

A study conducted by the City of Halifax looked at constructing an inland terminal. Essentially all truck activities and empty container storage would happen at the inland terminal, and containers would be moved between the port and the inland terminal by rail. Such a system solves the downtown truck problem, and expands port capacity by 250,000 TEU, from the current upper limit of 900,000, simply be re-allocating land use.

that study also looked at the feasibility of using the railcut to move trucks as well as trains. it found it could be a viable solution, though careful consideration would be needed to ensure rail uses were not impacted, and to leave room for commuter rail in the future. presumably the truck entrance to the railcut would happen around the Fairview overpass, possibly via a ramp off Joseph Howe. This would also have the benefit of a direct road link between the terminals.

A final option that has not been previously proposed or studied, is actually a variation on an old plan for a Northwest Arm bridge. If the city built the planned, but never started Northwest Arm bridge, and highway connection to the 103, it could be used as a dedicated transit and Truck route. this would solve the problem of getting buses from Spryfield, Tantalon and Timberlea onto the peninsula bypassing traffic choke points, and remove trucks from downtown. Trucks could exit into the railcut to access the port from Robie street, and could be subject to a toll to fund the road. Busses could connect to Robie.

Now might be the time to invest in infrastructure. However,  if the Port of Halifax working with the city and Province adopted some of Vancouver’s strategies to mitigate disturbances caused by trucks,  we could offset the impact of trucks on our community.

Port Unveils Expansion Plan

The Port released their plan for expansion on Wednesday August 29th.

Phase 1 allows for 2 ultra container ships to tie up at Halterm by further expanding pier 42 seaward. This is viewed as a short term solution to meet current needs.This phase of the project is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2019 and be completed in 2020. the new expansion would be 135 metres long and 65 meters wide, and is expected to Cost 30million dollars to complete.

The port projects a second birth will allow the port to expand to 800,000TEU, vs facing a loss of 400,000teu to American ports by not expanding, and retaining a single birth.

Phase 2 will expand north, filling in the finger piers.  This expansion will require additional work in the port, as those finger piers are heavily used. Much of the break bulk traffic will need to be relocated due to this expansion will likely go to pier 9, which previously hosted Nirint, and Could easily accommodate other breakbulk work. Fairview Cove. could be an other option, if that pier is expanded into the sequestration area, and space left for laydown.  Note the Phase 1 Pier expansion in the phase 2 illustration bellow has more infill then is shown in the phase 1 plan above.

Cruse Operations are to be expanded, with options to be looked at on both sides of the Harbour for additional capacity. The finger piers are currently used for overflow capacity.

the report also looks at options  for dealing with trucks through downtown, and suggests converting truck traffic to rail outside the Halifax area – including constructing transfer points in Moncton, Trenton NS, or in Burnside.

Port Traffic

After Musing about creating an update to the One Month of Traffic map from November 2011 – last week i hinted that an update was underway. Well its done. and the final product can be seen above.

(Above) Close up of the inner Harbour.

(Above) Activity at Halifax Shipyard – Note the  tugs moving a vessel into the graving dock (Below) the ferry tracks. You can actually see the individual paths on both sides of the Gang plank.

As Promised, I also wrote a separate post about how the map was created.

One Month of Traffic – August 2016

After Musing about creating an update to the One Month of Traffic map from November 2011 – I went  back into the data archives, and found the last full month I have August 2016.

So Above is a first look at the data, without context. the 2016 map the data set was huge – 4.6 million lines in the text file – 509mb in size, 2.5 times bigger then the 2011 Map. More vessels now carry AIS – including the ferries, which you can see fanning out in the middle of the map.

As part of this Update, I also have been documenting how I built it, in detail, which will become its own post. If you want to play now, I am giving away the point data above. you can download it here: (.csv 115mb) the data includes Lat/Long, Date/time and ships MMSI.

Someone Went to Work, and was Found Dead in the Harbour.

Monday morning, emergency services responded to a body in the harbour by the Mackay bridge. Given the location, and reports that emergency services responded to a technical rescue on the bridge the previous night, led people to assume it was a suicide.

Police, Later in the day, released a statement that a body was recovered from the Harbour, And that the investigation was being turned over to the department of Labour..

Wait.. What?!?

The DOL has since issued a stop work order at the harbour infilling site next to Fairview Cove, and the police dive team was seen working in the area. CTV have since reported that the Stop work order was issued to Scotiascapes Landscaping.

This means that not only was someone was involved in a workplace incident but also, and More Importantly, that no one noticed, as there were no other reported calls for service for a workplace incident, only for a body in the water.

We will keep this post updated with the Latest updates.

UPDATE 2018/07 15:00:

UPDATE 1600:

UPDATE 07/12 1000:
Trucks are back to dumping at the site today.

Halifax Area Rail Operations

Halifax Consists of 2 CN Subdivisions. The Bedford Sub runs from the Halifax Ocean Terminals to Truro. The Dartmouth Sub runs from Windsor Junction to Autoport in Eastern Passage.

Dartmouth Sub

The Dartmouth Sub is unsignaled, and relies on an occupancy control system. the dispatcher issues a set of rules governing the allowed limits of a trains movement.

The Train geek has a 2 part post that explains OCS
Part 1: OCS Basics   Part 2: Finer Details

The Dartmouth Sub runs several trains.

Trains 407/408: runs Dartmouth to Moncton and back Daily. 408 arrives in the early predawn hours of the morning, and 407 returns mid morning.

Train 503  is the Burnside Industrial Park Switch Assignment. it is unscheduled. this is also the train assignment that takes autoracks to autoport.

Train 511 (above) is the Gypsum Train, running from Wrights Cove to Milford and back.  Runs Week Days.

Westbound Eastbound
Mile Station CN 407 CN 511 CN 408 CN511
16.25 End of Track
15.1 Imperial Oil


0710 0515
10.1 Wrights Cove
Wrights Cove Spur
National Gypsum
0700 1510
8.72 Burnside Industrial Spur “D”
1.2 Miles N
8.52 Burnside Industrial Spur “B”
0.5 Miles N
8.39 Burnside Industrial Spur “A”
1.5 Miles N
0.2 Windsor Junction……….
Connection to CN Bedford Sub
0739 0710 0444 1500

Standby CH 1 161.415mhz
RTC Call in CH 3 160.935mhz

Bedford Sub

The Bedford Sub Uses CTC – A dispatcher sets signals and remotely configure switches in preparation for the trains. Trains get their clearances from the signals.

Clear and Stop Are pretty easy to understand. The other signals, Limited, Medium, slow and restricted reffer to speed limits

  • Track speed. This means whatever the pre-approved speed limit for the track.
  • Limited speed. 45 mph.
  • Medium speed.  30 mph.
  • Slow speed.  20 mph
  • Restricting speed. This means an absolute maximum of 15 mph, and the crew must be extra cautious as well as being able to stop in half the distance of vision.

There is a 4 part Video Explanation of the Canadian Signalling System Available Part 1: The basic three light system
Part 2: One and Two Light Systems
Part 3: Diverging and Limited speeds, to and at signals
Part 4: Dwarf Signals

Trains 120/121 : These are the Inbound and outbound Container Trains. 120 Arrives in the morning – typically around 9 or 10 am. 121 assembles itself around 7pm, and departs between 8-9pm. Run Between Toronto BIT and Rockingham.

Train 501: CN Local from Rockingham to Kinsac, and Back. Runs Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday. This serves Bedford Quarry, and likely picks up and delivers cars for 407/408 at Kinsac.

VIA Rail – The Ocean: train 15 Departs Halifax at 1200 Wed, Friday, Sunday. Train 14 Arrives at 1735 Monday, Thursday, Saturday.
Via publishes a Schedule in PDF  and allows for near realtime tracking by train number, but this third party site shows everything.

Eastbound Mile Station Westbound
 VIA 14
 CN 120
 CN 408
 CN 511
 CN 501
 CN 507
 VIA 15
 CN 121
 CN 407
 CN 511
 CN 501
 CN 507
17:35 0.0 Halifax Ocean Terminal
VIA Rail Station
5.0 Fairview
Deepwater Branch (HIT) 2.4 miles N
Fairview Maintenance Depot
0945 0500 1800 6.0 Rockingham
2000 2100 1000
7.96 Millview
10.6 Bedford
15.6 Junction with CN Dartmouth Sub
17:10 0930 0444 1500 1730 15.8 Windsor Junction………. 12:25 2025 0739 0710 1030
16.33 Hotbox detector
20.0 Kinsac
Siding 3553’
27.0 Sandy Cove
Siding 3800’
1649 0900 0415 1305 1700 30.3 Hotbox detector 1245 2125 0830 0800 1100
1300 36.6 Junction with National Gypsum 0805
1500 38.4 Milford 1430
44.3 Hotbox detector
51.2 Alton
Siding 6300’
56.0 Brookfield
Canada Cement Spur 2.8 miles S
61.3 Hotbox detector
61.5 Hyde
16:05 0820 0305 64.0 Truro East……….
Connection to CN Springhill Sub
13:31 2200 0940

Standby CH 1, 161.415mhz
RTC Call in CH 8, 161.025mhz

Other Trains
CN 308/305 is a Daily Run from Toronto Macmillian to Moncton (and Return) This is the main East/West General Freight.
CN Runs Local 515 from Truro to Brookfield (Canada Cement) weekdays. Also Train 534 runs Moncton to Amherst (no schedule)

Sambro Light

The need for a landfall lighthouse for Halifax was apparent early on, and in 1752 a lottery was formed to fund the construction. It failed to raise the necessary funds, and the first act passed by the first legislature in 1758 was a tax on ships to fund the light. The Nova Scotia Archives recently released a number of documents and photos related to the Light, including the Tax Records for the lighthouse funding.

Landfall lighthouses are tall structures, designed so that the light can be seen at a great distance, to point ships to a harbour. The light is octagonal in shape, and constructed of masonry, covered with wooden shingles due to early moisture issues.the Sambro Island Light is visible for 24 Nautical miles (44km)

(Above) Sambro Island Light as built, An additional 22′ of height was added in 1906 to increase the lights Range.

(above) the Heightening of the Sambro Light. Photos from the Department of Transportation Albums at the Nova Scotia Archives. (below) the completed tower. the Red White the stripes were added in 1908.

The Sambro Light is the oldest Lighthouse in North America and the Caribbean. Louisburg’s lighthouse was originally built in 1733, but was destroyed by the British during the Siege of Louisburg. Boston Light location dates to 1716, but the original was destroyed in 1776 by the British, during the revolutionary war. The current light was rebuilt on the foundations of the original light in 1783.

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