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US container terminal operator Ports America has signed an agreement with Sydney Harbour Investment Partners (SHIP) to develop a new deepwater box port on Canada’s east coast.

Known as Novaporte, a 500-acre area in the port of Sydney, in Canada’s Nova Scotia province, the project surrounds the construction of a greenfield container terminal capable of handling 18,000 teu vessels and hands Ports America a 40-year operating contract.

The development could turn Canada’s Atlantic seaboard into a new area for port competition – Nova Scotia is also home to the port of Halifax, which last month launched public consultation on a new masterplan to develop its container facilities which would allow two ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs) to berth at the port simultaneously

Earlier this year, in adjacent New Brunswick province, DP World signed a 35-year lease agreement with Saint John Port Authority to operate and develop its Rodney Container Terminal. It will take over operations on 1 January and has committed to an expansion plan that will see a new 350-metre deepwater berth at the facility by 2021.

However, thsee development prospects have been thrown into doubt following yesterday’s announcement from Ports America and Novaporte.

Peter Ford, chief strategy officer at Ports America, said: “Novaporte is a uniquely located deepwater port able to handle the largest of the next generation of ultra-large container vessels.

“Geographically, it is the first stop for vessels on the Great Circle Route from Europe and Asia via the Suez. It has abundant land, an adjacent 1,200-acre logistics park and is located in a foreign trade zone. Add to that abundant power, road and rail, as well as a skilled work force, and you have the makings of an east coast gateway for the next generation of super ships.”

Albert Barbusci, founding partner of SHIP, said, “We are excited about partnering with Ports America, the largest terminal operator and stevedore in the United States. In all our partnerships including financial, construction, engineering, marine equipment and technology relationships, we have looked for industry leaders. Ports America fits this description exactly.

“Its experience covers all aspects of marine operations from containers, to bulk, breakbulk, world-class cruise terminals, intermodal and ro-ro facilities.”

The terminal is expected to take two years to build, although Ports America added that construction would only begin “after establishing sufficient customer volume commitments”, a policy that could be affected by the Halifax and Saint John also competing for the same business.

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