From building the connector road, to exporting containers, and fueling cargo ships, the president and CEO of the Port of Prince Rupert delivered the 2019 outlook at the most recent chamber of commerce event.
“Our big focus out of the gate in 2019 is about getting the Fairview connector road built. It represents a project that is going to fundamentally transform how we see containers move through the community,” said Shaun Stevenson at the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce meeting on March 27.
The $100-million project will connect Ridley Island to Fairview Container Terminal directly, diverting all trucks away from Prince Rupert’s downtown core. The road will also create two additional tracks to stage trains, relieving pressure from the downtown yard.
“This road will entirely transform how we look at our container business going forward by creating a connection to where those containers are being reloaded,” Stevenson said.
By moving products through a private haul road, he said this opens opportunities to innovate, such as using self-driving trucks and truck platooning, or reducing space between vehicles in a convoy.
The project is in the permitting process and construction is expected in to be in full swing by June.
The connector road will allow for other industrial activities. Metlakatala Development Corporation is currently exploring import transloading capabilities. This would involve taking goods out of 40-foot marine containers, and seeing how they can be manipulated and transloaded into 53-foot domestic containers.
Wolverine fuel facility
The Prince Rupert Port Authority and Transport Canada have approved of Wolverine’s environmental determination.
The marine fuel project plans to supply container ships with fuel near Westview Terminal within the harbour.
Through a Section 67 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the project is now cleared to move ahead with its detailed engineering.
“What’s critical about this project is it fills a strategic gap that we have. We have no fuelling capabilities for ships. Imagine this community if we didn’t have any gas stations,” Stevenson said.
The geographical advantages of Prince Rupert being the closest port to Asia is ‘eroded’ when ships need to bunker down south.
Vopak Pacific terminal project
The bulk liquids tank storage facility proposed for Ridley Island continues to move through its environmental assessment.
“That project is a significant part of our diversification strategy,” Stevenson said.
Between AltaGas and Pembina, there has been an increased interest in exporting propane to Asia. In October last year Nauticol Energy announced it wants to build a $2-billion methanol manufacturing facility in Grande Prairie starting in 2019.
“We’re seeing value added projects. The recently announced Nauticol methanol project in Grande Prairie has intentions to move through the Vopak terminal,” he said.
Last year, the port and DP World announced its Phase 2B expansion to add capacity at Fairview Container Terminal.
Stevenson said they expect to handle 1.1-1.2 million containers at the terminal this year, against the capacity of 1.35 million – the expansion will bring capacity up to 1.8 million.
The expansion project is working through detailed engineering and seeking fisheries permits for construction. The port hopes to start construction later this year.
In planning for the future the port’s executive team has made some changes.
Late 2018, Shelby O’Brien became the first female member of the executive team. Ken Veldman and Brian Friesen were also added to the executive. In May, Kurt Slocombe, former DP World terminal manager at Fairview, will join the executive as VP of gateway operations.
Environmental and safety
Stevenson addressed some of the green-minded programs at the port authority, such as the Green Wave Program that gives financial incentives to ocean carriers coming into Prince Rupert to engage in best practices.
Last year, there were 198 qualifying vessels, up eight per cent from 2017. He said of the total vessels that called on Prince Rupert, 39 per cent qualified for some financial rebate on their harbour dues because they had implemented either air emissions standards through onboard technology or underwater noise reduction.
Stevenson also mentioned the recent attention on the increased number of anchor dragging incidents. “These aren’t significant events, but they’re a good pause for review and how we’re managing anchors,” he said.
With AltaGas beginning propane exports this year, the port is making sure they are ready for the introduction of new vessels, such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carriers.
Stevenson’s presentation revealed a productive year for the port, and reiterated the ambition to surpass Montreal as the second biggest port in Canada in the next five to 10 years.
Based in a small community on the edge of the North Coast, the port handles more than $35 billion in trade, provides 1,500 in direct jobs, and over 3,000 in northern B.C. and 5,000 in indirect jobs. The port pays $8 million in taxes to local municipalities, only to grow with AltaGas coming online this year.
“This is a significant economic footprint in northern B.C.,” Stevenson said.
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Shannon Lough | Editor
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