Plans are in the works to expand and upgrade facilities at the Port of Saint John. The port hopes to transform the waterfront on the west side and attract new business.

“We have to get our port back on the map, so to speak,” says Jim Quinn, the CEO of Port Saint John.

Quinn says the west side container terminal is the busiest spot on the Saint John waterfront; the amount of container traffic has more than doubled in the last three years.

He says the next step is a massive transformation of the west side waterfront.

“You’re going to see changes in equipment. You’re going to see changes in roadways, structures, rail services and things of that nature,” says Quinn. “It’s a large project, $205 million is a very large project and it’s probably the largest project undertaken in this port in a couple of generations.”

The last major upgrade took place in the early 1970s, when many of the existing piers and infrastructure were originally built.

Quinn says changes will reduce any roadblocks to moving cargo through the port quickly and workers along the waterfront say the port needs bigger cranes to accommodate bigger ships.

“We’re outdated. We have containers that are a few generations off and we need post Panamax cranes in there,” says Pat Riley of the Longshoremen’s Association. “They cost a pretty penny. Just those cranes alone can cost as much as $20 million.”

An application has been made for government infrastructure funding.

“And this fits the criteria very well,” says Saint John MP Rodney Weston.

“Some of the feedback I’ve been getting, the preliminary feedback, has been very positive. It’s very encouraging…the opportunities are there. Their program is there. We’re just matching it up.”

Port authorities warn that without the upgrade, container growth at the port will hit a wall.

“If the larger ships aren’t able to come to Saint John, then you’ll max out your growth,” says Quinn.

If approved, the project will be cost-shared equally between the port and the federal and provincial governments.

The port hopes it will get firm commitments from the federal and provincial governments soon so that work can get underway.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron