Infrastructure Expansion Options

We know there is even greater opportunity for the Port of Halifax over the long-term and it is about more than ships. It’s about the Port’s next chapter and what that could mean for our city, province, region, and country.

Cargo Option Evaluation Process

In considering a broad range of container infrastructure scenarios, we have conducted the most extensive review of all available cargo options for the Port of Halifax in a decade. The WSP Infrastructure Report is available for viewing upon request. As you would expect, certain information is deemed to be commercially sensitive and must remain confidential. Additional reports will be made available for viewing in the coming weeks.

WSP developed high level plans for each of the following scenarios including terminal layouts, conceptual engineering, capital costs, operating costs, terminal capacity, road and rail access concepts, and planning and construction timelines. WSP also identified potential environmental and community impacts, and site constraints that could limit the constructability of the concepts.

Halterm North expansion

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This scenario involves infilling the main Ocean Terminal slips between Piers A, A1, and B, using a caisson wall that supports a new container pier, thus creating a single UCCV berth.

The existing Pier C would continue to operate throughout the development phase.

This proposal would create an efficient container yard that can still accommodate dry bulk and cruise operations along the north side of Pier A.

The Halterm North option can be built within the Port’s existing property, with negligible impact on navigation or on adjacent land use. This option requires the least amount of imported fill material and has the shortest development timeline of all three Halterm-based scenarios.

The Halifax Port Authority would investigate relocating users of Ocean Terminals to other locations within the Port of Halifax.

This option would be the least expensive and easiest to build.

Halterm South expansion

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The Halterm South concept extends the existing Halterm berth southward with significant infilling to accommodate on-dock rail and container storage.

The slip between Piers A1 and B would be infilled to create additional yard space.

Enhancement options for Point Pleasant Park were included as part of the Halterm South expansion concept.

This option would be more expensive and would require more time to build than Halterm North.

Halterm East expansion

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Phase One would involve infilling the slip between Piers A and B and a new berth would be developed east of the existing Pier C.

Should container volume continue to increase, the new berth would be expanded southward to increase the capacity in subsequent phases.
The Halifax Port Authority would investigate relocating users of Ocean Terminals to other locations within the Port of Halifax.

This option would be more expensive and would require more time to build than Halterm North.

Moving the Terminal to Dartmouth

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The optimal location of a new Dartmouth container terminal was identified as being to the south of downtown Dartmouth and to the north of Eastern Passage. This location was determined by navigational issues and by land use developments along the Dartmouth shoreline.

For the Dartmouth concept, two rail options were considered to provide necessary rail access to the site:

  • Trains running along the existing Dartmouth waterfront line
  • Trains running along new track east of Dartmouth

Trains running along the existing Dartmouth waterfront were found to be impractical due to the 4200 metre length required for efficient operation. A route for a 20+ kilometre track running east of Dartmouth was examined in detail and adjusted to mitigate property and environment impacts.

Not including rail costs and costs related to property purchases, capital cost for this option was estimated at $1.4 billion CAD in 2017, with operation not expected to start until early-to-middle 2030.

This option was determined to have much higher costs, longer timeline, increased logistical/construction challenges, and significant impact on properties and residents in Dartmouth. 

Please click here to view other options considered by the Port of Halifax.

Where We Are Today

Ongoing Study and Infrastructure Planning

In August of 2017, the WSP infrastructure planning report was presented to the Halifax Port Authority, and while comprehensive, it showed us that additional exploration was required to fully understand the various options and opportunities associated with developing the best plan for the Port of Halifax. Further research has resulted in approximately 50 studies and reports. This process has taken considerable time and effort, and we are pleased to now be in a position to share information more broadly. The recommended option from WSP is to develop the sustained capacity required to berth two ultra-class container ships simultaneously involves a northward expansion of the South End Container Terminal, located in Halifax’s south end, at the head of the Halifax Harbour.

Northward Expansion of the South End Container Terminal

This location provides spaces to accommodate the biggest ships, with room for equipment and connections to road and rail. By expanding our infrastructure at SECT, construction can be limited to our existing property and minimize disruption to our Haligonian neighbours. Furthermore, a SECT expansion would not encounter the timeline, operational, or construction risks posed by other scenarios.

The goal of the infrastructure plan was to find a long-term solution (beyond 2030) for the Port of Halifax. An Off-Dock Intermodal Yard (ODIY) was identified as the preferred long-term solution. An ODIY is an inland container processing site equipped to handle full and empty containers. Containers are delivered to the yard by truck and moved to ship by rail, and vice versa, eliminating the need to haul containers directly to the waterside terminal. The original WSP Report recommended an Off-Dock Intermodal Yard be used in conjunction with the Halterm North concept as a means of eliminating Port-related traffic from downtown Halifax; this is still under consideration as part of long-term planning.  We are looking forward to ongoing conversations to ensure we are engaging with our community.

Additional Findings And Considerations


The Halifax Port Authority wanted a comprehensive understanding of all opportunities within the harbour. In addition to concepts that would expand the capacity of the existing South End Container Terminal, HPA asked WSP to consider relocating containerized cargo operations across the harbour to Dartmouth. The entire Dartmouth waterfront was considered, and only one viable site was identified.

The construction of a terminal in Dartmouth was found to have significant costs, constrained maximum capacity, long development timelines, high development risks, and significant environmental impacts. The estimated cost in 2017 to construct a terminal in Dartmouth was $1.415 Billion CAD plus land acquisition cost for the terminal and a rail line, with an earliest completion date in the early-to-middle 2030s. Furthermore, the development timeline for a terminal in Dartmouth would cause diversion of substantial traffic to competing U.S. ports by the time it would be put into commercial service.

As part of a move to Dartmouth, a new rail line would need to be constructed, impacting a number of properties including residential, commercial, park reserves and watershed parcels. There would be potential impact on waterways and wetlands, and parts of the Trans Canada Trail.

If a large parcel of marine industrial land were to become available, the Halifax Port Authority would certainly be interested in acquiring this land for long-term development; in the short-to-medium term, the construction of a terminal in Dartmouth does not meet the current needs.

Redevelopment of the South End Container Terminal for Residential & Commercial Use

In 2017, at the request of the Halifax Port Authority, WSP conducted an initial high-level valuation of the existing South End Container Terminal (74 acres of land) under a scenario for redevelopment for residential and commercial use. This led to further detailed studies and resulted in a conceptual design for the lands, and a valuation of the municipal infrastructure required for a redevelopment of this nature.

The increased vehicle traffic associated with a large new residential and commercial development would be significant, resulting in an additional 9,000+ vehicle trips each day. This would require several new access roads including a major arterial connector connecting to Robie Street and could necessitate the need for a third harbour crossing to allow vehicles to move off/on the site without contributing to the current traffic congestion on downtown streets. Installation of utilities and municipal services would also be required including electricity, water, sanitation, storm drains, sidewalks, streets, transit and active transportation.

The cost associated with converting the land from its current use to mixed use residential is estimated to be $238 million CAD. The redevelopment and sale of the South End Container Terminal land for residential and commercial use would not offset the cost associated with building a terminal in Dartmouth.

Under the Canada Marine Act, the Halifax Port Authority has a statutory duty to manage and protect the property owned by the Federal Crown and the uses permitted on this property are limited by its Letters Patent. The Letters Patent define and grant jurisdiction to HPA for the navigable waters of Halifax Harbour and confer powers for the management of federal real property encompassing Port facilities, including Ocean Terminals and the South End Container Terminal, Richmond Terminals, and the Fairview Cove Container Terminal.

HPA’s mission as a government business enterprise is derived from the four imperatives for incorporation as a Canada Port Authority stated in the CMA, s. 8(1), namely, that the Port of Halifax:

  • is, and is likely to remain, financially self-sufficient;
  • is of strategic significance to Canada’s trade;
  • is linked to a major rail line or a major highway infrastructure; and
  • has diversified traffic.

Securing the Future of the Port Together

As part of our infrastructure planning process, the Port will continue engaging the Port community, Haligonians, the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), and other levels of government in an ongoing dialogue over the importance of the Port of Halifax to the city and the region—today and for years to come.

An interactive online engagement tool will be launched in early 2019 through which the Port will seek feedback and input on our infrastructure planning process and will present opportunities for public participation.

The Port will incorporate public feedback from the online consultation process to inform in-person engagements later in 2019.