Friday, July 04, 2008

Port Hoping Fix Is Quick [Halifax]

Port Hoping Fix Is Quick [Halifax]
(ChronicleHerald – Tom Peters)

The Halifax Port Authority is concentrating on getting over the short-term pain before it turns its attention to long-term gain, says authority president and CEO Karen Oldfield. "We are so focused on getting our volumes up, increasing our business through the port, we are not even looking at 2009," she said Thursday after the authority’s annual meeting.

The port, like several others across North America, will show a continued decrease in container cargo when six-month figures are released in July. Ms. Oldfield would not say how big a decline she expects, but James Foote, CN’s executive vice-president of sales and marketing, estimated its volumes through the port are down about 15%.

"We are looking very, very short term. Long-term prospects are excellent. Short term, we are in choppy water and we are working really hard at every aspect of the business – the reefers (refrigerated cargo), retail, every little place that we can find commodities that go into boxes that go across our port. That’s where we are," Ms. Oldfield said.

Paul DuVoisin, the port’s commercial director based in the New York / New Jersey area, told the annual meeting that international shipping lines expect to see a turnaround in 2009. Imports into North America, particularly into the U.S., have dropped significantly this past year, a decrease attributed to factors such as the mortgage crisis. Household furnishings account for a large percentage of imports.

Ms. Oldfield said it is difficult to predict when Halifax will begin to see a cargo upsurge but she is optimistic about short-term prospects.

"We feel we are in good position . . . but it is very hard to actually seal the deal, if I can put it that way," she said. "How it works is, we have our front line and deal-makers, which are our terminals operators and CN. We support them. We help them. We do all the analysis for them, but at the end of the day, it is the terminal operators and CN who actually sign the contracts with carriers," she said.

Ms. Oldfield was also adamant that the cargo decline has not affected overall port operations. "We want people to understand the HPA is a rock-solid financial organization. We have received an A stable credit rating from Standard & Poor’s, that is investment grade. Why I make that point is, it means we are in a great financial position to weather the chop and to continue to reinvest ourselves and with our partners," she said.

Ms. Oldfield also stressed the port is about more than just containerized cargo. "We are talking about our cruise business, which is rock-solid. We are talking about considerable real estate holdings, which are very strong, and we are also talking about break-bulk and other kinds of cargo that are doing quite well too," she said.

The port’s cruise sector is having a record year with 131 cruise visits scheduled, which will bring in an estimated 215,000 to 220,000 passengers. On the real estate side, the port continues to work on its $110-million seawall project, which has already attracted a number of tenants. The authority is also giving consideration to the development of a hotel on its property.

Paul MacIsaac, senior vice-president, said in his financial report that the authority has a strong balance sheet. The authority has $154 million in assets and carries a debt of $25 million. Final revenues for 2007 were flat at $28.2 million, down slightly from $28.4 million in 2006. The authority had net earnings of $6.2 million, down from $7.8 million in 2006, and cash flow of $14 million, down from $14.7 million the previous year.


kwandongbrian said...


In case you didn't notice, there's something funny with the formatting of your blog.
For example, I can see bullet points for your 'orthodox sites' and 'unorthodox sites' but none of the links until I highlight the area.

Good luck with that.

Daniel Costello said...

You are possibly experiencing some firefox problem. Good luck with that.