Sunday, April 21, 2024

Future of Melford Terminal project brightens; proponents seek federal funding

  • July 19 2023
  • By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

GUYSBOROUGH – In July, 2008, Melford International Terminal Inc. registered the proposed Melford International Terminal, a marine-rail container terminal to be built in the community of Middle Melford in Guysborough County, for environmental assessment with the provincial government in Nova Scotia.

Since that time, the project has been granted extension after extension to begin construction; the latest one – of two years – runs to Oct. 2024.

Last month, talk of CN’s bid to purchase the rail line between Truro and Port Hawkesbury fueled speculation that this may be the last extension required by proponents of the terminal project.

Hopes that the project will move forward were buoyed by news last week that the federal government is considering an application for funding from Melford Terminal for $150 million through the National Trade Corridors Fund (NTCF).

The Journal spoke with Cape Breton-Canso MP Mike Kelloway about the proposed terminal project located in his riding on July 17.

Given the many delays in moving the Melford Terminal project forward, as well as the fact that neither the port of Halifax nor the port of St. John, New Brunswick are at capacity and both are currently undertaking plans for expansion, The Journal asked Kelloway why the federal government would back the Melford project.

Kelloway said the topic of capacity at nearby ports clouded the legitimacy of the Melford Terminal project and was likely driven by proponents of Halifax and St. John, adding, “At the end of the day, the government has the National Trade Corridor Fund (NTCF) to look at proposals that strengthen the supply chain for the region.”

The recently reported news that CN Rail was looking to buy the eastern rail corridor, he said, “would indicate that they have a potential strong stakeholder in it; in this particular initiative.”

Speaking to the length of time the project has been on the drawing board, Kelloway said, “What I do know is that Melford has been focused on this for quite some time, and it does take that long to put forward and build both alliances and collaborations; but, at the end of the day, whatever port we’re talking about, the private sector-led project, the amount that we just quoted [$150 million of a projected cost of $350 million] is a fraction of what it would cost to enable a port to go from zero to a hundred. Ultimately, at the end of the day, it will be the private sector leading the charge.”

As for the capacity and competition in the sector, Kelloway said, “I am on the side that a rising tide lifts all boats, and I do believe that we have potential, if the business case is strong…to be a cluster of ports that services Europe, that services the Suez Canal, which we are, in theory and in practice, close to.”

He added, “Certainly there are proponents in Halifax that say this would take away from them. I respectfully disagree…cluster developments are good for industry, if it is backed by a solid business case.”

Noting the questioning of the potential for federal backing of the Melford Terminal, Kelloway said, “The government is not in the business of just willy-nilly providing money for projects. They have to meet a lot of criteria, a lot of objectives…If this meets all of the criteria, this would be an economic opportunity not just for rural Nova Scotia but all Nova Scotia.”

A decision from the NTCF, Kelloway assumes, but can’t guarantee, will come this calendar year. He said, “Again I think that the Melford opportunity is one that is being explored in terms of the proposals put forward…the government does have a role, at least I believe, to invest in strategic options that are going to grow our economy and keep our supply chain whole.”

Kelloway added, “We see what happens when a particular port, like say Montreal or Vancouver, is under duress [referencing the recent strike in the Port of Vancouver]. We see a substantial loss in economic value domestically; but, ultimately, what are the business pathways forward for Melford, the strengths that they have, the alliances that they have, the collaborations they have; [that] will dictate whether investment is made or not.”

In recent weeks, The Journal has reached out to Melford Terminal CEO Mike Uberoi and VP of Marketing Richie Mann, but was told there was nothing they could comment on at this time.