The Port of Saint John hopes it will become a lot more attractive to shipping businesses as its renewal project continues.
The west side of the port is undergoing a major overhaul, with dredging to allow for larger vessels and improved docksides.
The project would also see the addition of two new cranes at the west side container terminal.
The new cranes, which are scheduled to be up and running by the end of the year, would give the terminal four cranes for moving shipping containers, the most it has ever had.
Craig Estabrooks, the president and CEO of Port Saint John, said ships will be able to load and unload quicker, meaning it will be possible to accommodate more vessels.
"It'll be able to work larger ships and be more efficient and just have the most state of the art cranes so that our labour can continue their excellent track record of dwell times and turning around this cargo very quickly," said Estabrooks.
"It'll just continue to help efficiency and then also be able to accommodate larger ships in the future."
Goods to market
He said the addition of the new cranes will help the port get more goods into the supply chain and will complement the growing number of rail connections into the port.
Estabrooks said the port now has connections to three major railways and could become a more attractive option for companies looking to get their goods into Canada and the United States.
He said they're looking to compete with larger established ports like Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York.
"We've got a line of sight on a lot of cargo that's currently going into the United States that's destined for Canadian markets," said Estabrooks.
"We believe that we've got an efficient way to move that through a Canadian port to get those goods to central Canada, for example."
Training and labour
The port is expecting more employment to come from the modernization of the port.
Estabrooks said the port, and the surrounding industries, employ roughly 3,000 people and that number is expected to jump by hundreds with the new construction.
And those new employees will need to be trained, which is why the port has invested in a crane simulator, with government funding.
Brian Duplessis, who trains new crane operators, said when he started out you had to start training on the real thing, adding it was "trial and error."
He calls the training simulator a "game changer."
"We don't have to worry if there's ships in. We can bring a person up here any time of the day or night and put them on it and work on that," said Duplessis.
"If a person is struggling on a ship … we can bring a person up on working that aspect of it so that they get better instead of losing productivity on the ship."
While the new cranes, and other upgrades at the port, should make it more attractive, Estabrooks admits nothing is guaranteed.
Inflation and the war in Ukraine make predicting markets impossible.
"It could slow if we do face some recessionary pressures, but I think the trajectory for our port and our region is definitely going to go up," said Estabrooks.