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Ports & Inland

Saint John, Canada and Halifax, Canada - Update

We are receiving multiple requests and urgent demands for information on when Import containers will move from the subject ports.

The situation remains difficult and to keep you informed, the following are some Frequently Asked Questions for your reference:

Why are we in this situation post-strike?

During the Montreal Longshoremen’s strike, Hapag-Lloyd diverted a total of six vessels to alternate ports in an attempt to keep cargo moving. Other container lines also took similar actions, resulting in unprecedented volumes of cargo in Halifax and Saint John. This quickly led to highly congested Terminals, which became unable to operate at their normal levels of efficiency. In the weeks following, rail car supply has marginally increased into the Port of Halifax, but not at the levels required to clear the backlog of containers in the time frame we would have expected.

Why can I not divert my container at Halifax or St. John?

Containers booked to move out by rail were placed in a rail stack, and boxes terminated at the Port were placed into a Truck stack. These stacks are high and wide in nature and so once a box enters a specific stack; it becomes almost impossible for the Terminal to access that box whilst still keeping the Terminal productive.
Therefore, switching between these stacks was prohibited by the terminals in most cases. In Halifax, Ceres Terminal will now divert containers at a charge but this charge simply gets the container out of the stacks and does not guarantee immediate movement to rail.

Why has my container been stuck at the terminal for 4+ weeks?

As the congestion at the Terminals increased, the ability to move containers around the yard to access older containers at the bottom of the stack became severely compromised. Containers were stacked in all available space, in some cases meaning that they cannot be accessed when there is a vessel in and working. This means the principle of FIFO (first in first out) cannot be adhered to, and so some containers have dwelled for much longer than they would normally.

What are we doing to resolve the above issues? Can the ports commit to a timeline to normalize operations?

We are working closely with all stakeholders to expedite recovery. In Saint John, based on CP rail car supply and Terminal production forecasts, we expect the majority of cargo to be cleared by the end of week 40.
In Halifax, the outlook is not as clear, as regular Halifax services continue to bring more cargo in. Despite Senior Management intervention with CN Rail, the rail car supply is still not sufficient to clear the backlog. We are reviewing the possibility of bringing a vessel into Halifax to bring cargo to Montreal where dwell times are currently much better. This has to be carefully planned as Canadian Government Cabotage laws must be adhered to and we need to ensure that we do not move the problem from one port to another.

Are reefers and special equipment prioritized?

Yes. Almost all reefers from the diverted vessels have now been cleared. Some special equipment can be more problematic, as they have restrictions on moving by rail. CN Rail and CP Rail have different limitations on moving special cargo so if cargo was originally routed via one railroad and must now move by the other, then issues and delays may ensue.

Why is it taking so long for Customer Service to get back to me?

The current issues have resulted in unprecedented volumes of email enquiries from customers and colleagues alike. We are trying to work in the order in which they are received. Staff are working from home and are working overtime to try to answer the queries as quickly as possible.

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