Festivals & Events

Port of Saint John: A Historic and Thriving Economic Hub

An Economic Powerhouse

The Port of Saint John in New Brunswick has a rich history dating back to the 18th century and has played a pivotal role in the economic development of the East Coast. This article explores the historical significance of the port and its current status as a thriving economic engine for the region.


A 200-Year Legacy of Economic Excellence

The Port of Saint John has a storied history that dates back to the 18th century when it began to develop rapidly due to the influx of United Empire Loyalists in 1783. It became a hub for the timber trade and shipbuilding industry during the 19th century, making Saint John the province's leading industrial centre.


During the Great Famine of Ireland in the mid-19th century, the port in Saint John, NB witnessed a large immigrant influx, leading to the construction of a quarantine station and hospital on Partridge Island. This immigration station operated for many decades. In 1859, Partridge Island gained further recognition as the site of the first successful demonstration of an automated steam-powered foghorn, a significant development in navigation aids.


The Port of Saint John played a crucial role during World War I as a trans-shipment point for the British Empire's war effort. However, its importance declined after the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the introduction of icebreaker services in the 1960s. In recent years, the port has experienced a resurgence in economic activity. Container traffic has been steadily increasing since 2016, thanks to DP World becoming the port operator and Canadian Pacific's renewed access in 2020 through the purchase of Central Maine and Quebec Railway.


A Gateway to Growth in Saint John

Today, the Port of Saint John is a major economic powerhouse for the East Coast of Canada. It occupies 120 hectares of land and boasts 3,900 meters of waterfront along the Saint John Harbour. Its strategic location has made it a crucial gateway for various products, including oil, forest products, and potash. The port has witnessed significant growth in recent years, with vessel arrivals reaching over 900 annually.

There are several marine facilities situated on either side of the harbour.

The west side of the harbour includes:

the Lower West Terminal, for dry bulk and liquid bulk

  • the American Iron and Metals Terminal, for dry bulk
  • inter-provincial ferry terminal, operated by Bay Ferries for passenger and vehicle ferry service to Digby, Nova Scotia
  • the Rodney Container Terminal, for container, dry bulk, break bulk and project cargo (operated by DP World formerly operated by Logistec Stevedoring, formerly operated by BrunTerm)
  • the Navy Island Terminal, for container, dry bulk, break bulk and project cargo (formerly operated by ForTerm)
    The east side of the harbour includes:
    • the Long Wharf Terminal, for dry bulk, break bulk and project cargo
    • the Marco Polo Cruise Terminal
    • the Diamond Jubilee Cruise Terminal
    • the Lower Cove Terminal, for dry bulk, break bulk and project cargo
    • the Irving Oil Refinery Terminal, operated by Irving Oil

    The annual cargo tonnage for 2022 stood at an impressive 27,454,799 metric revenue tons. Container traffic also reached 150,194 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in the same year. Passenger traffic through the port amounted to 147,890 passengers. One of the key factors contributing to the port's success is its unique tidal range and river currents. Slack water occurs at approximately half tide due to semi-diurnal tides and the river's influence, setting it apart from most other ports.

    The port of Saint John, NB  is administered by the Saint John Port Authority, a federal agency responsible for its operations. The Port of Saint John has a rich history dating back centuries, and it continues to be a vital economic engine for the East Coast of Canada. Its strategic location, diverse cargo handling capabilities, and recent growth make it a key player in the region's economic development.