Seizing a window of opportunity

Melford calls for engineering services, aims to start construction in 2018

By Helen Murphy    

GUYSBOROUGH – Melford International Terminal, with its partner SSA Marine, is taking steps to prepare for possible construction of the $300 million facility at the Strait of Canso later this year. The company recently issued a “Request for Qualifications” for engineering and design work for the terminal.

Richie Mann, Melford’s VP Marketing, told The Journal that about a dozen international firms, including some with head offices in N.S., were sent the 40-page tender document.

“This is to select the engineering and design firm that will work with us to prepare the tender documents for construction,” he said.

Global changes in the shipping industry, in particular the move to ultra-large vessels, supports the business case for development of the Melford Terminal, said Mann. Many major ports around the world were not designed to accommodate these larger vessels, but the Melford Terminal is designed to meet this growing need.

“That is an advantage we have,” he says.

But that advantage likely comes with a time limit. Mann said there will probably be billions of dollars poured into enhancing such terminals globally in the coming years, so he sees a “window of opportunity” for the Melford project to get out ahead of that.

He added that as existing ports try to fix these issues, they may have to pass increased costs on to shippers, without necessarily adding to the volume of containers they can handle.

Submissions from engineering and design firms are expected in February, followed by evaluations and interviews. Mann said the final awarding of the contract will probably take place by the first of April.

He said he was recently at a shipping industry conference in New Jersey where there was much talk about carriers expecting more congestion at ports, with the move to the larger vessels.

“Our challenge is to design a terminal and say we can save you money and we can save you time,” he said.

Mann said he is pleased with what Melford Terminal accomplished in 2017, including wrapping up collective agreements for the labour needed for the project.

“Our labour issues are pretty much put to bed,” he said.

Completion of the terminal is expected to take two construction seasons.