Editor’s note: Check out today’s Prince Rupert Northern View for a complete 16-page section celebrating the success of Fairview Terminal.
On September 12, 2007, Prince Rupert Port Authority president and CEO Don Krusel stood on stage before an appreciative crowd of Prince Rupert residents and spoke of what the new container terminal meant to people in the community and in the region.
Five years later, Krusel said the excitement of cutting the ribbon was shared with a bit of concern about how the terminal would perform.
“We certainly had a lot of hope and desire to see the port grow as a container port, but there was also a lot of anxiety being felt as the terminal opened. I recall there were a lot of skeptics who didn’t believe Prince Rupert could be a viable container port to access the Asia-Pacific…And just as the ribbon was being cut the global economy was falling and container volumes along the west coast of North America were declining, so it was a volatile time to be opening a new terminal,” he said.
“Looking back, it is quite a remarkable feat because we have not only convinced the skeptics that the business model we proposed 10 years ago works, we’ve defied the probability by becoming the fastest growing container terminal in North America…This year, 2012, we will exceed the original design capacity and will ship more than 500,000 TEUs, so it truly is remarkable.”
As well as coming at a time when the global economy was experiencing difficulties, it was also a time when the local economy was seeking an identity. The pulp mill had closed nine years ago, and other terminals in Prince Rupert had volume challenges of their own.
“We quickly forget that Prince Rupert was on its knees economically until the opening. I speak of the anxiety I felt about the opening, but I think it is fair to say that the community as a whole was anxious about the future of Prince Rupert,” said Krusel.
“Fairview Terminal has been a real game changer for Prince Rupert…Our own economic impact study shows that 900 new jobs have been created across northern BC as a result of the terminal operations, and a large portion of those jobs is in Prince Rupert. I think it is safe to say that Fairview Terminal brought back some economic certainty to the community.”
Along with the jobs related to Fairview Terminal and containerization, Krusel notes that the success of Fairview Terminal has really opened the eyes of the shipping industry to what Prince Rupert can offer in terms of access to Asia.
“Before Fairview Terminal opened, the port of Prince Rupert was not well known internationally. Even when we were promoting Prince Rupert as a container terminal, we would have to go to the shelf and get an atlas to show people where it was. We don’t have to worry about that anymore,” he said, pointing to the recent Federal Maritime Commission report as proof of Prince Rupert’s importance in trade.
“As commercial trade and bulk good movement grows, Prince Rupert plays a dominant role and that is what draws LNG proposals, expanded coal capacity and a number of other bulk shippers to look at Prince Rupert as a solution to trade and transportation.”
No one entity, however, can claim responsibility for the success of Fairview Terminal. Krusel said the world-class facility operated by Maher Terminals and the reliable movement of goods by CN need to be acknowledged, as do the people on the ground working the ships that come in.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the men and women at the terminal. One of the great success stories of Prince Rupert is the productivity of the people that has given us one of the highest productivity rates in North America. Sure some of that has to do with the equipment, but a lot of it has to do with the commitment of the workforce,” he said.
“Our success is tied directly to the loyalty and dedication of the workforce.”
And while there have been a lot of memorable milestones in the life of Fairview Terminal, Krusel said his most memorable moment has to do with the first ship to call on Prince Rupert, the COSCO ANTWERP.
“My most memorable moment was standing on the bridge of the ship and watching containers being offloaded and the business of the terminal,” he said.
“Before that I had stood on terminals around the world in cities like Hong Kong and Los Angeles and Seattle, and I had to pinch myself and realize this wasn’t a big city like Hong Kong or LA – it was the little city of Prince Rupert where this was happening.”
With five years at the terminal now in the past, Krusel anticipates even more success going forward.
“We are in the final stages of working with Maher Terminals on the commencement of construction that would take Fairview Terminal to a 1.2 million to 1.3 million TEU capacity…There is no indication that the growth in the next five years will be interrupted, and the challenge now is to manage that growth,” he said.
“The success of the past five years has set the stage for dramatic expansion of volume through Prince Rupert for other commodities. I see an exciting future for Fairview Terminal, but I see an even more exciting future for the port of Prince Rupert.”
With successful operations at the terminal reaching the five-year mark, the Prince Rupert Northern View talked to a number of community leaders to discuss what the container port has done to and for the community, region and world.
“It has given a sense of hope and renewal. Rupert has been through many tough years so watching something new get built and some people go back to work has been really positive,” said Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.
Prince Rupert Mayor Jack Mussallem said the community was largely resource-based before the opening of the container port, with a big portion of employment coming from the fishing industry prior to and after World War II. The mayor also mentioned the pulp mill at Watson Island, coastal logging and sawmills as other significant employers.
“We are really recognizing that Prince Rupert’s port-related activity is a lot of what our future will be. My hope is that the City of Prince Rupert and the Prince Rupert Port Authority will work together and will become a modern port on the Pacific rim of the world,” said Mussallem.
“I’m very optimistic moving forward that the quality of life will improve in Prince Rupert with new jobs that are created, and that we will be able to help the community grow and assist the current residents.”
Mayor Mussallem says that the port has put Prince Rupert on the map, bringing up how he has met with consul generals from China, Norway and Japan and with companies from around the world that are interested in the port.
MP Cullen believes the port has had a global impact.
“The port’s impact on the national economy is as big as it on the local economy. It’s connected us better to the rest of the world. We’re an important part of the conversation of global trade.”
North Coast MLA Gary Coons said that the community saw a “waste of economic and employment opportunities” before the container terminal opened.
“We had hit the doldrums with the closing of the Skeena Mill. We lost hundreds of good paying jobs.”
Coons went on to say that the port has changed the whole economic landscape of the region.
“Opening [the terminal] five years ago was the first step to building a world class transportation system that brought a new era in our community and opened up extraordinary opportunities for those in the region as far as employment and good paying union jobs.”
And since the container terminal held its grand opening five years ago, the number of union members in Prince Rupert’s International Longshore and Warehouse Union division has jumped significantly. According to secretary-treasurer and dispatcher of Prince Rupert’s ILWU division, Tom MacDonald, before the port there were 35 union members and approximately 45 casual workers. There are now 85 union members and around 300 casuals.
“We have seen a significant numbert of jobs created from port-related activity,” said Jason Scherr, who is the president of the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce, mentioning a study done by the port that showed there have been over 900 jobs created over the past few years, something he says is good not only for the people who are now employed but the business community as well.
“That provides the money in the community that allows businesses to stay open and new businesses to start establishing themselves.”
Scherr says there has been a change in opinion in terms of the local economy since the container terminal started operations.
“There seems to be a lot of positive energy around what’s happening with the development of the port and expansion of activity at Fairview especially. You’re seeing growth out at Ridley Island in terms of new terminal development. I think it’s all very positive growth as we move forward,” said Scherr, who is also the manager of Environmental Sustainability for the Prince Rupert Port Authority.
“The general mood in town is really positive…There’s a sense of optimism about how much more the port will become,” echoed Cullen.
MLA Coons is also very excited for the future of the terminal
“I look forward to, as many Rupertites do, to the second phase expansion where we’re going to quadruple the container capacity and have more opportunities for youth in the community and region.”