Part 3: Finding balance in the container business

Port of Prince Rupert’s mission to expand its export business

The Port of Prince Rupert is celebrating three milestones on Aug. 29, one that reflects on the past and two others that prepare it for the future of its cargo business.

The event, to be held at the container terminal, marks 10 years since Fairview began operations, as well as the grand opening of DP World’s Phase 2 North Expansion and the Ray-Mont Logistics terminal on Ridley Island.

Provincial ministers and politicians are making the trip, as well as delegations from DP World, COSCO, CN Rail and coastal First Nations will be there along with the general public. A free shuttle will bring people in from the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre to the terminal between 12:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Then at 2 p.m. a bus will also drive people to Ridley Island to view Ray-Mont’s newly-minted operations.

With the completion of the $200 million Phase 2 North expansion project, the terminal will begin to increase its capacity from 500,000 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to 1.3 million TEUs, but the buck won’t stop there.

Looking to the future, there are plans to open the northern gateway either north or south to handle 2.5 million TEUs, catching up to the Port of Vancouver that handles nearly three million TEUs annually, and surpassing the Montreal Port Authority that handles 1.4 million TEUs a year.

“Right now, we’re in partnership with DP World,” said CEO and president of the Port of Prince Rupert Don Krusel. “Before the end of this year equipment will be out there doing the geotechnical surveys on either going north or south. It’s absolutely viewed that it’s going to happen and I think today we’re believing that it will be up by 2022.”

But the port’s expansion goes beyond the container terminal. The road, rail and utility corridor (RRUC) was completed in 2015 to attract investment and provide better access for potential users on Ridley Island. Ray-Mont Logisitics has become the first user of the corridor, and the facility will fill ocean containers with Canadian and U.S. grains and pulses, where they will be exported to Asian markets.

Establishing a balanced trade is the key. Rather than purely importing, the port is finding ways to attract more exports.

“Taking cargo from U.S. Midwest and the Prairies opens a door to a secondary outlet for western Canada because Vancouver has its issues with congestion and logistical constraints,” said Loui Stathatos, vice president and chief commercial officer for Ray-Mont Logistics.

His company also operates in Montreal and Vancouver but adding Prince Rupert allows more cargo to exit the country making Canadian exports much more competitive in the world.

As the port sees growth in import volumes, it creates a greater market for Canadian exporters. For example, in June there were 51,834 TEUs of imports — a 47 per cent increase from the same month last year — and a total 13,166 TEUs exported — a 20 per cent increase — but 26,843 TEUs were exported empty. The potential to fill those empty containers is there.

Shaun Stevenson, vice president of trade development and public affairs at the Port of Prince Rupert, said that increased import volumes has created a market access for Canadian exports in forest and agricultural products.

“One of the things that we’re excited about is growing the refrigerated cargo opportunities for chilled pork and beef and also for the local seafood sector,” he said.

To learn more about the most recent expansion and future plans for the port, visit the new terminal on Aug. 29 for a free BBQ, live music and children’s activities.

Port of Prince Rupert

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Fairview Container Terminal in Prince Rupert. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

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