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10 Feb 2012
Prince Rupert's Fairview expansion will take container capacity to 2m teu

Prince Rupert's Fairview expansion will take container capacity to 2m teu

Pacific Gateway ports have successfully married expansion plans with infrastructure improvements. Kathy A Smith reports

Canada's Pacific Gateway ports of Prince Rupert and Vancouver are holding strong despite the global recession. In fact, they're growing due to current market demand, and with a keen eye on anticipated future demand, expansion projects are top of the agenda.

"The province of British Columbia has committed to two substantial infrastructure investments in Prince Rupert and Vancouver as part of the Premier’s Canada Starts Here: BC Jobs Plan which was unveiled last September," says Dave Byng, chief operating officer for the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. The Prince Rupert initiative, called the Road and Rail Utility Corridor Project, is located on Ridley Island in Prince Rupert.

"The province is making a $15m contribution to a project, along with our funding partners, CN, the Prince Rupert Authority and the Government of Canada. Its overall value is going to be in the neighbourhood of $90m," says Mr Byng.

The idea behind the expansion is to develop the road and rail infrastructure on Ridley Island to enable additional terminal infrastructure investments to take place.

"The timing is good on this project," says Mr Byng. "Certainly coal as well as potash is at record levels out of Ridley.” The objective is to enable Prince Rupert to operate more efficiently as Canada's northern gateway to the Pacific.

"Our view is that there is a great potential for an increase in coal shipments out of Prince Rupert as well as Vancouver, and certainly to expand to allow for other commodities such as potash and other break bulk type products as well."

The Port of Prince Rupert is also currently expanding its Fairview Container Terminal which has been in operation since the 1970s. Phase I and Phase II planning has been in progress since 2005 and by the time Phase II, which is currently in the environmental assessment stage, is completed, the container facility will have a capacity of 2m teu.

"We expect that assessment will be complete and the project permitted later this year," says Shaun Stevenson, vice president of Marketing and Business Development. Once construction begins, Mr Stevenson estimates it will be 18 to 24 months before the expanded terminal is fully operational.

The port also invites community consultation in its discussions about expansion.

"We are looking at ways where we can mitigate the impact of development on the quality of life in the community," says Mr Stevenson.

"We are also advancing a lot of environmental stewardship programs that should minimise our carbon footprint going forward. And Prince Rupert will soon be the first port in Canada to have shore power at a container terminal."

Additionally, the port is also pushing the development of a logistics park to provide shippers greater flexibility through the development of both export and import logistics services.

"I think the efficiency and reliability that Prince Rupert has offered since opening is driving the growth," explains Mr Stevenson. "We have some natural attributes because of our location and proximity to Asia. Also the collaboration between the terminal operator, the port and the railway provides great value for shippers, and that's what has contributed to our growth thus far."

Further south, Port Metro Vancouver saw an overall increase of 2.4% for the first 10 months of 2011, led by significant increases in fertilizers, forest products, specialty crops and coal. 

"We are expecting a similar year in 2012," says Peter Xotta, vice president of Planning and Operations.

The port creates about 130,000 jobs across the county and approximately 80,000 of those jobs are based in the Lower Mainland. And with new expansion plans, more jobs are on the way.

The Container Capacity Improvement Program is anticipated to meet growth and demand of container capacity out to about 2050. The first initiative, called Deltaport Terminal Road and Rail Improvement Project, consists of a new overpass and configuration of the rail tracks on the existing Deltaport Terminal and associated rail lines.

The province has committed to provide up to $50m to the project, which should increase container capacity at the terminal by 600,000 teu.

"We are in the process of a very thorough series of community consultation and working closely with Delta, Surrey and Langley which are the municipalities through which most of this traffic goes through on its way to the terminal," says Mr Xotta. "We expect this project to move forward into 2012."

The port is also in the process of working on future expansion of Terminal 2, which is the next phase of container expansion and involves the creation of a new land mass near Deltaport.

In the early stages of analysis and consultation, it will take the better part of a decade to put into place. Another project involves improving the efficiency of the inner harbour terminals.

Mr Xotta says they have been working with Transport Canada on a number of infrastructure projects under the Asia-Pacific Gateway Corridor Initiative, one of which is a major improvement of the road access into the Burrard Inlet terminals – a project expected to be complete by 2014.

For its part, Port Metro Vancouver is proud of its investment and achievements with regard to sustainability and the environment. It received a Globe 2010 Echo Freight Award for sustainable transportation for their action program; vessel operators who use clean fuel receive a break on their harbour dues.

And 2011 marked their first-ever sustainability report that outlines the efforts the port is making to reduce its carbon footprint. It is also participating in the North West Ports Clean Air Strategy, which is a collaboration between Port Metro Vancouver and the ports of Seattle and Tacoma on collective issues that impact their air shed.

Moving with the times to ensure optimum productivity, a third berth added to the Deltaport Terminal opened in 2010, making it Canada's largest container handling facility. The terminal employs revolutionary quad-lift crane technology that can handle four teu or two feu containers at once.

This expansion brought Vancouver’s container capacity in total to 3.2m teu.

The port has collaboration agreements with Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways. "One of the commitments that the railways made under those agreements was to enter into service level agreements," says Mr Xotta. "They've done that with the major terminal operators, and we've seen a very significant drop in the dwell time.”

During 2011, the port’s dwell time was consistently within its set target of three days, a reduction of about 18% from 2010 to 2011.

“Last Fall, we were consistently performing under two days on our terminals port-wide," he notes. "We have seen tremendous improvement in the service delivery of our customers as a result of this collaboration. I think we've been a fairly effective catalyst in bringing people to the table and seeing positive results from that. That is something we are very proud of."

Both ports have clearly identified plans for container expansion to meet growth to 2030. Another vital infrastructure project is the $307m Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program that BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Mr Byng says revolves around nine particular projects on the rail corridor that serves the Lower Mainland.

With comprehensive, forward-looking plans to expand, these West Coast Canadian ports are poised for continued success.

"There are very significant opportunities going forward to expanding trade with our partners in Asia." Mr Byng says. "And we certainly want to ensure that we continue to provide an investment climate that is attractive from an international perspective.

“We're also seeing a real demand for outbound containers, so you will see continued emphasis on looking at the development of new markets. Essentially, the shipping of containerized Canadian products to the Asia markets continues to be in high demand.”

Images for this article - click to enlarge

Prince Rupert's Fairview expansion will take container capacity to 2m teu Port Metro Vancouver is studying the efficiency of its inner harbour terminals "Prince Rupert will soon be the first port in Canada to have shore power at a container terminal," Shaun Stevenson, Prince Rupert "I think we've been a fairly effective catalyst in bringing people to the table and seeing positive results from that," Peter Xotta, Port Metro Vancouver

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