What’s up with all the ships bypassing Halifax Harbour? | News | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
The SFL Conductor is scheduled to arrive in Halifax on Wednesday, March 29, 2023.

What’s up with all the ships bypassing Halifax Harbour?

It’s a complicated answer. Plus, container ships, cargo carriers and more vessels bound for Halifax the week of Mar. 27-Apr. 2.

In normal circumstances, the 39,938-tonne Vayenga Maersk container ship would stop in Halifax on its cross-Atlantic voyage from Montreal to Bremerhaven, Germany—only this week, it’s skipping Nova Scotia altogether.

That it’s doing so isn’t altogether unusual—from time to time, shipping lines omit port calls to make up for delays or scrap stops if demand dwindles—but the Vayenga Maersk isn’t the only vessel veering away from Halifax Harbour this week. And the underlying causes link Halifax’s shipping port to a bevy of global issues, from industry-wide labour unrest to the ongoing effects of COVID-19 to ports facing “critical capacity” challenges.

That’s a story that merits more depth than what today’s column offers—and one for another day on The Coast—but it’s a theme to watch for in the coming weeks. For now, here’s what you need to know about what’s coming in and out of port this week.


The HMCS Montreal left Halifax on Monday on a six-month “Indo-Pacific operation,” which is Navy-speak for Canada flexing its biceps in front of the dumbbell mirror and hoping its allies and enemies come away impressed. (The enemy, in this case, is North Korea, which Canada is “monitoring” to ensure it follows UN sanctions.) The one wrinkle in the whole exercise is that, militarily speaking, Canada’s Navy is a little short on muscle at the moment. The DND’s 12 Halifax-class patrol frigates are coming to the end of their lifespan, and most of the vessels are undergoing repairs at the Irving shipyard. Which leaves the HMCS Montreal as one of the few east coast options the Navy can deploy.

click to enlarge What’s up with all the ships bypassing Halifax Harbour?
Government of Canada
The HMCS Montreal has been in operation since 1995. It left Halifax for a six-month Indo-Pacific mission on Monday, March 27, 2023.

As the Montreal bid Halifax farewell (not quite yet a full farewell; it’ll be in and out of the harbour for a few more days this week on exercises), the Atlantic Sky ro-ro/container ship arrived Monday morning from Liverpool. It was only a half-day stop at the Fairview Cove Terminal for the 296-metre Sky; it’s already en route for New York City. As of early Tuesday morning, the ship was sailing past Clark’s Harbour and the southern tip of Nova Scotia.


So long to the NYK Meteor, which was originally slated to arrive in Halifax on Tuesday evening, until it wasn’t. The 294-metre container ship was listed as an omitted sailing on the Port of Halifax’s vessel forecast summary, and is skipping our fine Maritime city to make up time on its usual route from Antwerp, Belgium to Port Everglades, Florida.

click to enlarge What’s up with all the ships bypassing Halifax Harbour?
Corey Seeman / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
The NYK Meteor, seen in port in Los Angeles in 2015. The Meteor is skipping Halifax en route from Antwerp to Port Everglades.

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s schedule yields two likely afternoon and evening arrivals in the Atlantic Sail container ship and the CSL Tacoma bulk carrier—forecasted for 3pm and 11pm, respectively. The Sail… well… sails from Norfolk, Virginia (albeit almost eight days behind schedule), while the Tacoma is en route from Baltimore. Owned and operated by the CSL Group Inc. out of Montreal, the Tacoma carries dry-bulk cargo ranging from iron ore, to coal, to gypsum and stone. Back in 2018, CSL also bought a 50% stake in a fleet of cement vessels that travel between Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.


Welcome back to the Oceanex Sanderling ro-ro/container carrier, which is scheduled to arrive Wednesday morning from St. John’s. The Sanderling will dock at the South End Container Terminal.

Also slated for a mid-week arrival are the SFL Conductor ro-ro/vehicle carrier and the Skogafoss container ship—due for 8am and 1pm, respectively. The Conductor is inbound from Sparrows Point, Maryland, while the Skogafoss is on its way from Reykjavik. Built in 2006, the former is chartered by Volkswagen and can carry up to 6,500 cars. But the real travesty is that it used to be called the Favorite Ace—which, A) is awesome, and B) sounds like a Kentucky Derby-winner. I’m not saying the Conductor is a bad name for a ship, but I’m not putting my life savings on it to win the Preakness.


It’s shaping up to be a quiet Thursday in Halifax Harbour. Just one ship—the Atlantic Star ro-ro/container ship—is listed on the Port of Halifax’s scheduled arrivals. It’s slated to dock at the Fairview Cove Terminal at 6pm. Built in 2015 for Atlantic Container Lines as part of a fleet of five identically-sized ro-ro/container ships, the Star and its quintuplets were designed to be the five largest roll-on/roll-off container ships in the world. Each can transport up to 3,800 20-foot containers, along with 1,307 vehicles.


If Thursday is all quiet on the harbourfront, things pick up in earnest on Friday with the arrival of four shipping vessels: The MSC Bhavya and MSC Ines container ships, the Siem Confucius ro-ro/vehicle carrier and the Nolhan Ava ro-ro/cargo carrier.

The Bhavya is slated for a 1am arrival at the South End Container Terminal. It’s currently five days behind schedule on its route from Valencia to Montreal to Halifax. The ship left Montreal early Tuesday morning and—as of the afternoon—was sailing past Trois-Rivières. There’s a chance it arrives in Halifax late Thursday night.

click to enlarge What’s up with all the ships bypassing Halifax Harbour?
Screenshot from Siem Car Carriers video. Credit: Hector Huertas
The Siem Confucius is scheduled to arrive in Halifax on Friday, March 31, 2023.

Meanwhile, the Ines left Freeport, Bahamas on Monday morning. It was initially pegged for a Wednesday Halifax arrival, until its ETA was updated to noon Friday. (That, too, could change: Online vessel tracker MarineTraffic has the Ines reaching port around 6am on Saturday.)

Elsewhere in the harbour, the Siem Confucius and Nolhan Ava are expected at 5am and 8am, respectively. The Confucius—loaded with a bunch more Volkswagens—arrives from Emden, Germany. The Nolhan Ava makes its usual weekly stop after trips to Argentia and St. Pierre & Miquelon.


There are no breaks on the water this weekend, with the arrival of three more ships: The Em Kea and CMA CGM Magellan container ships, and the 143-metre Augusta Luna cargo ship. The Luna is currently 10 days behind schedule from Moa, Cuba, before it hops across the Atlantic Ocean to Bilbao, Spain and Rotterdam, Netherlands. It’s slated to berth at Halifax’s Ocean Terminals at 2am.

The Magellan—by far, the biggest ship in port of the week, at 365 metres long and with a carrying capacity of 165,538 tonnes—is expected to dock in Halifax at noon, after a weeklong crossing from Tanger Med, Morocco. Earlier in the morning, the Em Kea is scheduled to arrive at the South End Container Terminal at 7am. It’s currently in Montreal after crossing the pond from Antwerp.


The weekend wraps with another omitted sailing in the MSC Eleni. It was originally scheduled to arrive at 1pm after crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Sines, Portugal, but instead will bypass Halifax and carry onward to Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

Arriving in Eleni’s place? The Boheme ro-ro/vehicle carrier and One Hangzhou Bay container ship are both slated to complete their delayed journeys to Halifax. The former, operated by Wallenius Wilhelmsen, is currently en route from Zeebrugge, Belgium and could beat its estimated arrival by as much as two days—though it’s too early to tell: Its last coordinates came Sunday, south of the Azores.

click to enlarge What’s up with all the ships bypassing Halifax Harbour?
Ralph Daily / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The M/V Boheme, seen entering the Port of Brunswick, Georgia in 2010, is scheduled to arrive in Halifax on Sunday, April 2, 2023.

One Hangzhou Bay is scheduled to reach Fairview Cove at 7am. It’s nearly a week delayed on its route along the eastern seaboard from Jacksonville, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia and onward to Halifax.

Martin Bauman

Martin Bauman, The Coast's News & Business Reporter, is an award-winning journalist and interviewer, whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald, Capital Daily, and Waterloo Region Record, among other places. In 2020, he was named one of five “emergent” nonfiction writers by the RBC Taylor Prize...
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