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Prince Rupert Port Authority CEO says 2012 laid the groundwork for a bright future

Prince Rupert Port Authority president and CEO Don Krusel stands in front of Fairview Terminal. - Prince Rupert Port Authority photo
Prince Rupert Port Authority president and CEO Don Krusel stands in front of Fairview Terminal.
— image credit: Prince Rupert Port Authority photo

“One word summarizes 2012 and the future: Excitement.”

Those are the words of Prince Rupert Port Authority president and CEO Don Krusel following a year that saw the group achieve a third-consecutive record year and laid the groundwork for even more growth in the future.

2012 By the numbers

As the calendar turned to 2013, Fairview Terminal had not only reached its original design capacity of 500,000 TEUs, but surpassed it by a wide margin. In total there were 564,856 TEUs handled at Fairview in 2012 compared to 410,469 TEUs in 2011, a difference of 37.6 per cent. Imports in 2012 were up 35.5 per cent and surpassed 318,000 TEUs, while exports were up 44.4 per cent and reached 246,789 TEUs.

“Last year Fairview Terminal grew by 37 per cent, and the average for ports on the west coast was less than five per cent. 2012 was the fifth anniversary of Fairview Terminal, and it would be very tough to find another terminal in the world that has grown from zero to in excess of its design capacity in just five years,” said Krusel, who attributed the success to Prince Rupert being “in the right place at the right time in history” with the development of Asian economies.

“At the opening five years ago, you dreamed of [meeting design capacity], you were very optimistic. But it is safe to say Fairview Terminal has exceeded, by a very wide margin, everyone's expectations of success... As we opened Fairview Terminal the world economy was in decline, so based on what was happening in the industry it is an overwhelming success.”

Ridley Terminals also broke the record the company set in 2011, growing by 19.63 per cent to ship 11.5 million tonnes of product in 2012. That number is less than 500,00 tonnes short of the terminal's 12 million tonne capacity and comes in

the midst of work on the site to double the capacity.

“Three years ago I would have said I would be surprised by that number, but today I'm not because the best is yet to come at Ridley Terminals,” said Krusel.

“We're in discussion with Ridley Terminals to expand even further. As long as there are no surprises in the world economy, there should be continued opportunities and demand for Canadian coal.”

Despite declines at Prince Rupert Grain, which dropped six per cent down to 4.7 million tonnes, and in logs being shipped from the harbour, which fell by 35.9 per cent to 327,351 tonnes, overall the Prince Rupert Port Authority moved 22.25 million tonnes of goods in 2012, up 15.24 per cent from 2011.

“The numbers are an external validation of the port's success, but 2012 was a remarkable year in so many ways,” he said.

“There is so much happening with the port you almost need a flow chart or a road map to keep up.”

Laying the groundwork

In 2012 the Canadian Government approved the Ridley Island Road, Rail, and Utility Corridor, a $90 million project that will loop the island.

“The road, rail and utility corridor is going to have the same kind of importance to the Port of Prince Rupert as the development of the container terminal. It is a fundamental game changer because it unleashes all of the opportunity of the 1,200 acres of undeveloped land on Ridley Island,” said Krusel.

“I can't emphasize enough the importance of all the pieces of the road, rail and utility corridor coming into place in 2012... We will look back five years in the same way we look back at the ribbon cutting for Fairview Terminal and say that this corridor really opened the economic future of Prince Rupert.”

To make the corridor a reality, $30 million each was committed to the project from the Prince Rupert Port Authority and CN while $15 million each was committed from both the provincial and federal governments.

With the approval and funding now in place, Krusel said shovels will be hitting the ground sometime in the next 30 days.

“The equipment is mobilizing as we speak,” he said.

During 2012 the Prince Rupert Port Authority and partners also undertook an environmental assessment for the expansion of Fairview Terminal, and Krusel said that work is close to completion.

“Any day now we expect the Minister of Environment to sign off on the final permits, so by the end of January or February, whenever that happens, all the pieces will be in place for Maher Terminals to make a commercial decision to expand Fairview Terminal,” he said.

Although the final decision on expansion is up to the terminal operator, Krusel said he wouldn't be surprised to see shovels in the ground by the end of the year.

“It's a matter of when, not if, because the numbers show that expansion is needed,” he said.

2012 also saw the approval and start of construction on the Pinnacle Renewable Energy pellet terminal and two companies making known their intention to develop LNG export terminals in Prince Rupert – the BG Group on Ridley Island and Progress Energy on Lelu Island.

“2012 is the year everything started to gel and really laid the groundwork for future economic growth... Looking ahead to 2020, Prince Rupert has the opportunity to be the second largest port in Canada and grow by five times the current size as long as the world economy continues the path it is on,” said Krusel of all the potential development.

“Stay tuned for 2013, it's going to be exciting.”

Social licence

But for all the success, 2012 was also a year that saw the social licence of the Prince Rupert Port Authority in the community called into question.

In large part these concerns arose during the environmental assessment process for the Pinnacle Pellet Terminal at the old Westview Terminal site, an assessment that was overseen by the Port Authority and raised concerns around dust, noise and the ability of people to access and view the waterfront. In 2012 the City of Prince Rupert wrote a letter expressing their concerns about train movement into CN's waterfront land and the whistling near residential areas that comes with it, claiming neither was raised during the initial Fairview Terminal environmental assessment.

“Five years ago our social license was creating jobs. When I was stopped on the street I wasn't being questioned about noise or train whistles or dust, the questions were about where to hand in resumes and the economic benefits. That has changed significantly,” said Krusel, adding that community and regional support is “critical to our ongoing success”.

“There isn't another port in the world that is growing as quickly as Prince Rupert, and when you are growing this quickly it is inevitable that there are going to be areas of port development that interfere with the community's lifestyle... We're very aware of the concerns expressed in the community about the rapid growth of port activity.”

To that end, Krusel pointed to the $500,000 reinvested by the Prince Rupert Port Authority last year through the Community Reinvestment Fund, the work being done that has brought train whistling “days away” from being eliminated and the plans developed for the Cow Bay area that were unveiled last year.

“As industrial lands on Ridley Island and places like Westview Terminal are converted to port activities and job creation, we want to provide alternate and enhanced access to the waterfront and one of those areas is Cow Bay,” he said, encouraging people to stop by the Port Interpretive Centre to look at the model of planned development.

“This year we started the engagement on Cow Bay development and how to develop it to create additional public access to the waterfront and we are purchasing some lands from the City to develop for Cow Bay... I'm very excited about the future of the Cow Bay area.”

That being said, Krusel said residents should be aware of the impact the port has on the rest of the Canadian economy.

“Rupertites sometimes have to be reminded that this port, although of great benefit to Prince Rupert, is of even greater benefit to Western Canada... Every time a ship leaves Prince Rupert, on average it is carrying $12 million of Canadian goods,” he explained.

"So yes, we have a social licence for Prince Rupert, but we also have a social licence for places like Burns Lake and Prince George and Peace River Alberta and Hinton Alberta and even Edmonton because the jobs there depend on building the infrastructure here in Prince Rupert. Sometimes those are even conflicting social licences.”

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