Port of Sydney to lose 65 per cent in revenue due to COVID-19 pandemic

Jeremy Fraser (jeremy.fraser@cbpost.com)

The Chronicle Herald



The COVID-19 pandemic has caused its fair share of revenue loss in the world market and the Port of Sydney is no different in feeling those effects.

Marlene Usher, chief executive officer for the port, said revenues will be down 65 per cent this year because of the pandemic and the cancellation of cruise ship season for basically the entire year.

“It’s been a struggle,” she said. “We’ve had a number of layoffs, we’ve cut all of discretionary spending and we’re just trying to keep the doors open.”

With revenue loss, the Port of Sydney was forced to lay off 10 people in various positions. Lost revenue is expected to be around $1.5 million.

“We have to remain open because we’re an essential service and we need to have fuel being received at our dock, so we definitely need to keep the doors open,” said Usher.

“We’re looking at other ways to market the port in terms of cargo and other things because we could have the impact of COVID-19 for a couple of years, but hopefully not.”

The Sydney port was scheduled to have 118 cruise ships visit this year. However, all visits were cancelled in May following the federal government’s cruise ship ban as part of measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“We’re going from the best year to the worst year,” said Usher. “Right now, we’re closed until the end of October to any cruise lines and that’s by order from Transport Canada.”

The port remains in operation, providing service for fuel tanker ships as well as the Canadian Coast Guard. The Port of Sydney also operates the marina.

Meanwhile, the newly named Liberty Pier second berth, a project worth just over $19 million, is expected to open for business next month, according to Usher.

“We are looking for business to come to the second berth,” said Usher. “It’s pretty much completed.

“There’s a couple more fenders that have to go on and they’re also doing some work with respect to the grounds and the shape of the landscaping and some electrical lighting, but the concrete is all poured … it’s pretty much ready to go.”

In the province’s capital, the Port of Halifax is also seeing a decline in revenue because of the cancellation of cruise ship season, however, wouldn’t say the estimated loss.

“There is no question that the loss of one of our lines of business will have an impact,” said Lane Farguson, manager of media relations and communications for the Halifax Port Authority, in an email.

“The Halifax Port Authority had been forecasting the busiest season ever in terms of both vessel calls and overall cruise guests – it’s disappointing, but we recognize the importance of maintaining the health and well-being of all involved.”

Farguson told the Cape Breton Post the Halifax cruise industry contributes an estimated $165-million annually in the Halifax and surrounding area, according to the most recent economic impact study. It includes passenger spending, port fees and the provisioning that takes place when vessels are in port.

The Halifax port receives revenue from three business lines including cargo, cruise and real estate.

“Fortunately, we entered 2020 in a strong financial position,” said Farguson.

The Post contacted the ports in Charlottetown and St. John’s, N.L., regarding the economic impact the virus has had in those cities with no cruise ship passengers, however, nobody was immediately available for comment.

Back in Sydney, Usher acknowledged the difficult year, but is hopeful the port will receive some type of help moving forward.

“We’re hoping that we will get some government support somewhere, but today we haven’t got a whole lot,” said Usher.

As of now, the Sydney port hasn’t had any cancellations for the 2021 cruise ship season. Although the schedule hasn’t been released, Usher anticipates more than 100 calls, but that could change.

“We are concerned about the 2021 schedule,” said Usher. “We just don’t know what will happen with vaccines and U.S. and Canadian ports.”