Possible buyers for MMA ?

Discussion of present-day CM&Q operations, as well as discussion of predecessors Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) and Bangor & Aroostook Railroad (BAR).

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Re: Possible buyers for MMA ?

Postby Cowford » Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:55 pm

I'm trying to understand your point. You're implying that Halifax is struggling just because it's single-line served. If that is the case, why would the folks who manage Prince Rupert be assessing the possibility of building a new container port in Port Tupper, NS? And more to the point, why did they develop a single-served port in Prince Rupert in the first place, given that joint-served terminals were operating to the south in Vancouver?

Multiple carrier access is only advantageous for all parties only if a port has "critical mass" that can sustain multiple routes.
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Re: Possible buyers for MMA ?

Postby CPF363 » Sat Dec 17, 2011 9:29 am

The MM&A line across Maine does not have a lot of port-bound traffic on it. Most ocean-going containers east of Montreal are on CN's line to the north. Would MM&A across Maine benefit from ocean bound containers or no? If CP had access to the Port of Halifax, would they have divested their lines east of Montreal? Maybe, or maybe not.
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Re: Possible buyers for MMA ?

Postby Cowford » Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:33 am

That's a valid question. The issue again is volume. If two roads served Halifax, overall rail-handled port volume may increase, but the rates would drop, as well. By most reports, CN's line is not the most profitable; draining both tonnage and revenue/ton wouldn't help. And I'm not sure as to what extent it would (have) boost(ed) International of Maine viability. Thrice the business generated in the Maritimes could easily be handled on one route. I'm always in the camp that favors one strong player over two weak ones.
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Re: Possible buyers for MMA ?

Postby Ken V » Sun Dec 18, 2011 12:06 am

This is getting way off topic but BNSF also serves Vancouver BC (Roberts Bank/Deltaport). Doesn't the New Brunswick Southern also have access to the port at St. John and connect with the MMA?
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Re: Possible buyers for MMA ?

Postby fogg1703 » Sun Dec 18, 2011 10:23 am

"Doesn't the New Brunswick Southern also have access to the port at St. John and connect with the MMA?"

NBS has no access to Halifax, only St John. In fact they switch most of CN's customers there under an agreement and hand off the majority of traffic to CN which routes it up and over Maine to Montreal. St John was marginalized as a container port as far back as the CP days and only currently hosts one or two container shipping lines weekly as opposed to a larger number of break-bulk shipping lines calling the port weekly. With that being said, I don't know why St John fell behind Halifax or even Montreal for container traffic? St John was one of the busiest ports in the world during WWII and the robust years that followed , served by both CN and CP, however was transformed into a large forest products, break-bulk and oil terminal by the Irving's but the container traffic slipped away. Even when CP owned the Moosehead and it was a single-line haul, St John's container traffic was only sporadic at best, overflowing when the St Lawrence Seaway was frozen, a trickle in the summer. While this makes St John a second tier port, its a major player in bulk (pellets, pulp, potash, oil) shipments and major competition to ports in Maine.

What does this mean for the Moosehead? Uncertainty. With MNR serving Irving's forest products needs in NB, as well as GNP, MMA is left to ship any outbound paper from GNP over the Moosehead as well as whatever NBS gives them (less than a train a day) at Brownsville Jct. And with maybe a train a day each way and all those non revenue producing rugged miles, the Moosehead may meet its maker. Any GNP traffic can either be routed to CN at St Leonard or Pan Am at Mattawamkeag. Even if Cates Street can re-invent the forest industry in northern Maine with its new technology at its East Millinocket/Millinocket mills, this is a straight shot down to Searsport and it wouldn't surprise me if Irving wouldn't try to capture this traffic on the basis that very little infrastructure would be needed at St John as opposed to Searsport where they are starting from scratch.

I too would be interested to hear who was looking over the property as well.
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Re: Possible buyers for MMA ?

Postby Cowford » Sun Dec 18, 2011 2:57 pm

"I don't know why St John fell behind Halifax or even Montreal for container traffic?"

Calling on St John requires a circuitous route into the Bay of Fundy, and the bay's extreme tides can restrict sailing times. (I'd imagine that last point is even more pronounced now as container vessel size increases.) As there is little local import/export business to support vessel calls, steamship migration to those other ports (in addition to NY/NJ) was probably remarkably easy. If I'm not mistaken, the only container vessel operator in St John is now Tropical Shipping that operates weekly between St John and the Caribbean with relatively small vessels.
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Re: Possible buyers for MMA ?

Postby fogg1703 » Mon Dec 26, 2011 12:52 pm

I had not thought of the tidal issues at St John. For the most part bulk ships are not as time-sensitive as containerized traffic as they are closely scheduled. According to The Port of St John's website, Tropical is the only container shipping line currently using the port and is evident with occasional Tropical containers on CN trains 405/406.

So for the sake of argument, if Irving is content with what they currently have and has no interest in the Moosehead, is the remaining MMA system viable to a shortline operator? The Northern Vermont lines may be an easier sell than a Searsport-Montreal main with little online originating traffic other than GNP (minus the potential torrified wood prospect).
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