Lack of waterfront space frustrates marine industry10/30/2012
A dearth of marine-industrial space on the Halifax waterfront had a couple of water-reliant business operators wondering about their futures Monday.
YachtSmiths International Inc., in Dartmouth, and Edge Marine and Disposal Services, based in Woodside, operate at opposite ends of the marine industry spectrum.
However, they are both caught up in frustrating searches for waterfront work space.
“Our landlord, the Waterfront Development Corp., is obliged to advertise the potential availability of our leased site,” Brian Smyth, the director of engineering at YachtSmiths International, said in an interview.
“We’re wondering what’s going to happen if some big marine industry operator wants to come in here and pay twice as much as what we currently pay.”
YachtSmiths — co-owned by Smyth and David Canning — and about eight skilled workers are putting finishing touches on some custom-designed luxury steel-hulled cruisers.
The lease for their Maitland Street site, which they’ve occupied for about 10 years and that includes a 30,000-square-foot building, expires in August 2013.
Smyth said he’s unsuccessfully explored options to relocate to the east and south shores of the province and has even considered moving the business to Prince Edward Island.
“We’ve lost so much waterfront space to residential development that you’ve got to wonder if Halifax is losing its image of being a working harbour,” he said.
Edge Marine and Disposal Services was in the spotlight recently when general manager Steve Widmeyer was left scrambling to find a new pier to off-load waste the business collects from cruise ships.
He said he was rather unceremoniously booted by Halifax Regional Municipality from the Dartmouth space on Shore Road that he’s used for eight years.
Some area residents complained at the height of the cruise season about odours from the garbage barges.
“That move by the municipality in an election year was detrimental to our business and to the cruise industry business,” said Widmeyer.
He found a temporary location to off-load his barges in Woodside but said this arrangement is only good until the imminent conclusion of the cruise season. So the scramble to find a new space is back on.
“Everybody in the city should be concerned we’re losing space for marine industries on the waterfront. We cannot support the city with residential taxes alone,” Widmeyer said.
The Waterfront Development Corp. has concerns about the future availability of space to provide for a robust marine industries environment, president and CEO Colin MacLean said.
Concerns about the availability of working space have merit, he said.
“When we look back at the ’50s, we can see there is (less) space available for marine industries in the harbour and surrounding areas.”
MacLean said this is one reason why the corporation is taking a look at the future of the Canadian Coast Guard base in Dartmouth. A federal government disposal process is underway for the site.
The base could be available for redevelopment as early as next summer, after operations shift into an $18-million headquarters near the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.
“Waterfront locations are often desirable for residential developments, but a significant number of Halifax businesses depend on water access,” said MacLean.
(The Chronicle Herald)