Port of Sydney marketer asks public to 'cut us a little slack'
Published on June 4, 2015
Cape Breton Post
SYDNEY — Barry Sheehy is asking people to try to put aside any natural skepticism about potential port development as he and his partner try to round up business for the port of Sydney.
Harbour Port Development Partners, business consultants Sheehy and Albert Barbusci have together spent more than $1 million of their own money in the past 18 months to market the port for development.
both experienced businessmen, we wouldn’t have invested this time and energy and resources if we didn’t think this had a very good chance of ultimately working,” Sheehy said.
“We’re the ones
that are writing the cheques — it would be helpful if people could cut us a little slack.”
The partners “fully expect” to make money at the back end of development, he added, and believe enough in
its potential that they are prepared to take the risk at the beginning.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality council will be asked to approve a deal that will give the duo the exclusive right to continue those efforts for the
next two years.
“We say that we have strong federal support, which we do, we have strong provincial support, which we do, and that we have strong local support,” Sheehy said. “Although we certainly have
the support of the mayor and I suspect most of council, there is a sort of negativity here. At times it seems almost pathological — that is, the initial reaction to anything and any opportunity is that it can’t be done.”
When they do go abroad and say they have support, those contacts will check if that’s the case.
The community has to lose the attitude that nothing will happen, or that the development must be guaranteed
before offering its support, Sheehy said.
“One can’t guarantee anything except our earnest efforts and hard work,” he said.
Sheehy said he can understand some of the
skepticism based on past events, and he would tend to agree that not enough has happened, given the port’s potential.
“But things are happening now in that the right people are being brought to the table. A lot
of those people are coming to the port, are making visits very quietly … a lot of positive things are happening with regard to the port, with regard to the harbourfront, the potential logistics park and the development of a free-trade area.”
A native of Montreal, Sheehy lived abroad for two decades before settling in Gabarus about seven years ago.
After hearing a briefing on the port from Mayor Cecil Clarke, Sheehy said it became
clear people he knew would probably have an interest in the port.
“This was a bit of a diamond in the rough and it just needed the right people brought to the table,” he said.
believes Sydney represents the most valuable piece of maritime real estate on the East Coast, and said he has no difficulty getting others to see that potential, even in its undeveloped state.
After taking some time to get
familiar with the file, he and Barbusci began reaching out to contacts and potential partners, including financial operators and investment bankers, starting in Canada and then branching out to Asia and the Middle East.
there, they began contacting port operators, shippers and logistics operators, and started visiting them. Those trips took them everywhere from New York and New Jersey, to Tokyo and Beijing.
“The next round of trips
will take us to Suez, Egypt, and to Israel, where there’s a lot of interesting port activity going on,” Sheehy said.
They are also working to set up potential sister port relationships.
The bill for all of that effort has been footed by Sheehy and Barbusci.
“It doesn’t take long to run up a big bill because we have attorneys involved, we have graphic artists involved, cartographers,
maritime experts, rail experts — that all costs money — and then travelling is incredibly expensive,” Sheehy said.
The exclusivity agreement is needed so they can demonstrate going forward that they have
the mandate to speak with parties on behalf of the port, he added.
“We’ve operated largely on good faith, on the assumption that a contract would be forthcoming when we needed it,” Sheehy said.
With the move to larger and larger ships, the timing for Sydney is good, he said. Rail will be key, and Sheehy said they have had good discussions with CN and others about the rail link.
“CN has certainly
said if the port is there and the traffic is there, they’ll be there,” Sheehy said. “It’s a bit chicken and egg; shippers want to know we have rail, and rail wants to know we have shippers.”
advantages include its location, a silt harbour bottom, lack of overhead obstructions and no legacy problems, Sheehy said.