Shipping company diverts traffic from bottleneck at Port of Halifax
HALIFAX -- The port of Halifax sends and receives cargo by container ships from all over the world.
Now, its longest standing customer says the national rail shutdown means its ships will head to other ports.
"For two weeks now, it's come to a grinding halt, so a lot of our customers now are just fed up," said Andrew Abbott, the President and CEO of Atlantic Container Line (ACL).
For more than 50 years, ACL's ships have come to the port twice a week. Now they won't, until the rail lines open up.
"The cargo is starting to back up in the terminal in Halifax," Abbott said. "So, we've now rerouted it all over to New York or Baltimore. Those are the two gateways we're using instead."
It's the latest in a series of blows to the Maritime economy on Wednesday.
In the afternoon Via Rail announced layoffs after the passenger to Montreal made its last trip to Halifax last week.
Now, Via is temporarily laying off close to 1,000 employees across the country - including here.
There are pending layoffs as well at the Autoport in Eastern Passage where workers are usually busy taking new vehicles off railcars.
Instead, some of them will receive layoff notices Saturday. Their union confirmed 85 workers will be affected.
Alex McLean works for a private company that inspects the vehicles.
"It'll kind of affect most of my crew, just because of the amount of work that will go on, but most of our shift off to truck shipping rather than rail shipping," McLean said.
With the pressure on the prime minister heating up in Ottawa, there is pressure here too, on the provincial government.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says he's communicating with the federal government.
"The economy of the country is being impacted," McNeil said. "We fully expect that the Prime Minister, the Government of Canada, does what's required to allow the economy of the country to move forward."
The leader of Nova Scotia's opposition party says with rail lines being blockaded for almost two weeks now, the issue needs to be resolved.
"Right now, we're at the point where people have lost their jobs," said Tim Houston, the leader of Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservative Party. "That's a concern and this has to be dealt with sooner."
But, for the moment, rail lines remain silent as the calls to get back on track grow louder.
The announcement by ACL has a big impact in Halifax. Kevin Piper, the president of Local 269 of the International Longshoreman's Association -- which represents hundreds of workers at the port -- says those workers' paycheques are now on the line.