More Canadian crops will be shipped through the Port of Prince Rupert starting late August.
Transload company Ray-Mont Logistics is building a brand new facility for pulses and cereals (or lentils, peas, beans, soybeans, flax and wheat) at the south end of Ridley Island. The facility will receive the product from incoming trains on CN’s line, and then it will export the crop out of Fairview Container Terminal.
This type of agricultural product is a new frontier for the port and DP World’s Fairview Terminal, which is currently expanding to handle 1.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) per year.
The new transload facility will be operational just in time for the 2017-18 crop year, is 11 acres in size and includes a rail loop corridor fitting 100 cars, a grain dumper pit and a conveyance system.
Increasing jobs on the North Coast
The company plans to start operations on Day One with 25 employees, and ramp up to 40-45. Ray-Mont’s Jonathan Hébert, vice-president of finance and corporate development and Loui E. Stathatos, vice-president and chief commercial officer, visited Prince Rupert last week to explore the site-clearing and speak with port representatives and media.
“So far we’re quite excited. The guys at the Port of Prince Rupert have been phenomenal … The synergy that we’re seeing with everything going along – it’s always difficult to put people together when you’re dealing with a multi-faceted project, so in this case here, the whole Prince Rupert experience has been fantastic,” said Stathatos, who added the team visited Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla representatives to ensure potential employment opportunities and explore impacts to the area.
Employees at the facility will be locally sourced, with trainers coming from other Ray-Mont operations like Vancouver to establish workflow at the start.
“The program has a lot of training involved because we are a very unique company that deals with transloading … We believe in taking the time to train people properly because we know this business quite well and we want to make sure that everybody is comfortable with what they’re doing before they start,” Stathatos said.
“We believe there is a talent pool here and it’s equal opportunity, so there’s no gender issue. The most important thing is do they have the right attitude and readiness to embark on a project like that. So we’re ready to give everybody a chance, nobody has more preference than any others.”
Making the port more attractive
“Facilities like Ray-Mont are going to make a huge difference, not just to Fairview’s volumes, but also the attractiveness of the terminal and the port for marine carriers,” said Michael Inman, business development manager for the Port of Prince Rupert this past Thursday.
Ray-Mont’s facility will take specialty bulk agricultural product, coming from western Canada and midwest U.S. on trains, out of the rail cars and into containerized ocean shipping containers, and then onto Fairview Terminal for export.
Previously, the only way the port could handle this type of cargo was through a ‘source-load’ process, where the transloading takes place inland where the product ships from.
‘Port-loading’ will start once Ray-Mont’s facility is operational in Prince Rupert (set for late August-early September), and it’s already a feature at the Port of Vancouver.
Hébert and Stathatos explained that the value being added to the port works on both exports and imports, with the facility being able to find export loads to fill import containers that would otherwise leave the port empty — known as matchback.
“Prince Rupert has been really successful in importing cargo from Asia since 2007. One thing is that if you add more and more capacity in terms of steamship lines and the coverage of those steamship lines was to have that matchback – to have that export loop back,” Hébert said.
The Ray-Mont representatives explained that even though crops are seasonal by nature, the goal for operations at the port is year-round work, with a varied customer base and different commodities being exported through the year.
Ray-Mont is also the official freight forwarder in Canada for the United Nations World Food Programme.
Stathatos explained that making exports work more fluid on Canada’s West Coast and pleasing customers with speed and efficiency is the main goal.
“The idea behind it all has always been about how Canada can play on an international platform and one of the biggest problems we’ve had has always been logistics … The only exit on the West Coast in Canada has been Vancouver and we are all aware of the logistics restrictions we have out of that terminal and it’s impeded us being able to export [customers’] product,” Stathatos said.
“With the Prince Rupert opportunity, that to us was a golden opportunity to be able to explore having a second option and a second window for Canadian exports of agricultural products coming out of Canada. With the ability to have a dedicated rail line, that was just something that really excited us.”