Melford poised to become North America’s first port of call with SSA Marine partnership

By Helen Murphy    

GUYSBOROUGH – A new partnership to develop the planned marine terminal at Melford, along the Strait of Canso, is being described as a game-changer in getting the project built. SSA Marine, Melford International Terminal and Cyrus Capital Partners L.P. announced their joint venture and investment in the Melford Atlantic Gateway last Wednesday.

SSA Marine is the leading terminal operator in North America. In an interview with The Journal Monday, Melford International Terminal’s vice president marketing, Richie Mann, noted that SSA Marine has been developing terminals for 70 years with great success. The company has 240-250 operations globally with 1600 employees.

“They know how to do this. They’ve done it before,” said Mann. “They add some muscle, they add some depth and they add a heck of a lot of credibility to the organization.”

SSA Marine is seen as being key to securing the needed shipping agreements to get the project off the ground. Mann said SSA Marine has relationships with all 20 of the largest container lines in the world and deal with them at all of their terminals. “Their network is vast, the relationships are sound,” said Mann, noting that SSA Marine just opened a new terminal a couple of weeks ago in Mexico City and have carriers starting to call there this week.

“I don’t think they’d reach in their pockets and pull out their chequebook and write a cheque if they didn’t think they could get a deal done.”

The 315-acre marine container terminal will become the closest North American port on the Great Circle Route to Europe and Asia via the Suez Canal. The fully permitted terminal is specially designed to accommodate Ultra Large Container Vessels.

“This is an exciting initiative for SSA Marine,” said SSA Conventional President Mark Knudsen in a release. “We have spent considerable effort over the years examining terminal opportunities on the East Coast of North America and we believe Melford, with its 20 meters of draft and the ability to reduce delivery time to US and Canadian markets by two to six days...combines all the beneficial attributes to quickly establish itself as the preeminent first port of call for North America.”

“The Melford team is elated with this partnership,” said Melford President Paul Martin. “We have been working on this project for a number of years and the investment by SSA Marine, the leading terminal operator in North America, demonstrates a huge vote of confidence in this initiative. SSA Marine’s relationships and service history, with the world’s leading steamship lines, will assure the lines of receiving the highest level of service,” he said.

Martin also recognized Nova Scotia’s well-known skilled labour force, and said their support for this project, combined with the support of the local community and community leaders, create a unique opportunity for streamlined construction and startup activities.

The Municipality of the District of Guysborough is just as pleased with news of the partnership. In a release MODG said it was “ectastic” with the announcement, noting its groundwork over the years to help make the project a reality. “The similarities to Prince Rupert, BC on the West Coast, to the Melford Atlantic Gateway on the East Coast is striking, and we believe that this terminal in our municipality will be just as or more successful,” said Warden Vernon Pitts.

The municipality signed a community benefits agreement with the proponents that will help bring employment, additional business opportunities, and additional revenues for the municipality. MODG also sold prime waterfront lands to Melford International Terminal and more recently it acquired property to facilitate a railway corridor -- lands that have also been sold to the proponent.

“The role of a municipality is to use the tools in our toolbox to help advance economic development opportunities for our community and in particular for our residents,” said Pitts. “Zoning land, building community support, purchasing and selling key parcels of property, and negotiating community benefit agreements for our residents is integral in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough’s strategy to advance opportunities like the Melford Atlantic Gateway.”

Premier Stephen McNeil added his support for the news: “We welcome this new private investment that recognizes our strong system of existing infrastructure, our training abilities, our skilled workers, and business friendly environment that the Province of Nova Scotia provides to companies investing in our region.”

MP Rodger Cuzner praised the independent nature of the project: “What is most remarkable to me is that this incredible deal was developed with independent financing and no public funds. The team that developed this project is to be commended for the establishment of partnerships and the continued efforts to increase activity in the Strait of Canso region and all of Nova Scotia.”