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Rail shutdown restricts supply lines to Maritimes, creating some empty shelves
HALIFAX -- Empty shelves have been spotted at several Halifax retailers -- a sign of what can happen, when the country's rail lines grind to a halt.
With product unable to reach the Maritimes by train, retailers are doing what they can, to get shoppers what they need.
"You will see stores where there will be a little less product in certain areas," said Jim Cormierof the Retail Council of Canada.
The group that represents retailers on the East Coast says some products are more likely to be affected than others, products such as non-perishables like sugar, condiments, and toiletries.
"Those types of products, retailers are now having to look at, if they're stranded at the Port of Vancouver, or they're stranded somewhere in central Canada, how do we get them from Point A to Point B?" Cormier said.
The alternative? Use trucks instead, but that, costs more money.
With more businesses turning to trucking as a solution that industry is also feeling the pressure.
"So the longer it stays this way, the worse it gets," said Jean-Marc Picardof the Atlantic Truckers Association.
The Atlantic Truckers Association says it takes three trucks to carry the same load as one rail car.
"We only have so many drivers and equipment that we have available to us, therefore, and we can only drive a certain amount of hours every day," Picard says. "So it's very hard to manage the workload these days."
Wednesday, Atlantic Container Line announced it will send its ships to ports in the U.S. instead of Halifax as long as the dispute continues.
On Thursday, another major cargo company -- Hapag-Lloyd -- made its own statement.
"A limited number of trains are operating in the Halifax/Montreal corridor," the company writes on its website. "Various options to move divert cargo out of Halifax are being explored.”
The head of Halifax's Chamber of Commerce worries about the long-term effects.
"Canada's reputation as a friendly port and as a port that is easily accessible and able to ship products to the rest of Canada, is just being damaged by these blockades," said Patrick Sullivanof the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.
In Ottawa, the pressure is mounting.
"The Port of Halifax is at risk of never seeing that container traffic again," West Nova MP Chris d'Entremont said in the House of Commons.
"When will the prime minister show leadership and help lift the blockade?"
The answer from Canada's minister of transport? They're working on it.
Besides what's happening in retail, a potential shortage of propane is a real concern.
The president of Superior Propane says so far, the company has managed to get supply by truck for essential heating customers like seniors homes.
But, the company is rationing its supply for residential customers and it says it's impossible to know exactly how long the propane supply will last.