Prince Rupert Alaskan Marine Highway terminal upgrade possibly cancelled

Tourism Prince Rupert and the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce release joint statement condemning move

Tourism Prince Rupert has outlined its concerns regarding the potential cancellation of the upgrade of the Alaska Marine Highway terminal in Prince Rupert.

In a joint statement released on Tuesday, the two organizations condemn what they say is a cross-border game of politics that will hurt Prince Rupert.

“In 2013, the Port of Prince Rupert (landlord) entered into a 50-year lease with the Alaska Marine Highway (tenant) to maintain Prince Rupert as an important link within northern transportation system.  The Alaskan marine highway highlighted plans for a $15 million upgrade to the terminal which, under U.S. federal Government legislation, requires a Buy American component for the iron and steel. It should be noted there is nothing in the lease and or U.S. legislation that would preclude Canadian companies from supplying the labour and or supplies outside of the iron and steel.

“More recently, the Canadian federal government indicated that they would use a piece of Canadian legislation (Fema) to block the US from having the Buy American component for the iron and steel, which has resulted in the Alaskan Marine Highway to postpone the planned improvements. The terminal in Prince Rupert is towards the end of its life expectancy, and any delay in the redevelopment of the terminal could result in the permanent closure of the terminal.

“Tourism Prince Rupert is concerned with the long-term negative impacts of this decision. The Alaskan Marine Highway is a critical piece of tourism transportation infrastructure that directly benefits the community of Prince Rupert, the northern corridor along highway 16 and the Province of BC.

“In 2014, the Alaskan marine highway moved in excess of 15,000 visitors through Prince Rupert. The Alaskan marine highway is a critical component of the itineraries of a large number of international tour operators. The potential loss would be of significant detriment to the tourism industry and may further reduce usage of BC Ferries Route 10 by visitors travelling from the Lower 48 on their way to Alaska.

“Tourism Prince Rupert Board Chair Scott Farwell comments: “The Alaskan marine highway terminal in Prince Rupert has had a tenuous history originating with the ferry blockade of 1997. The tourism industry of Prince Rupert and British Columbia understand the significance of this critical link from British Columbia to Alaska, we have a history of working closely with our neighbours to the North and are hopeful the leadership in Ottawa and Washington can work closely to ensure this investment can proceed to the benefit of both Alaskan and Canadians.”

“John Farrell, President of the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce says: “The traffic to Prince Rupert resulting from the Alaskan Marine Ferry is a significant economic generator to our community. The Chamber remains confident the governments of our two nations will be able to mediate their differences to ensure the long term viability of the proposed new terminal.”

As reported on Dec. 3 in the Northern View, requirements that materials used in the replacement of the Alaska Ferry dock in Prince Rupert be produced in the U.S. are raising red flags throughout the country’s manufacturing industry.

Because the $10 million to $15 million project is being funded by taxpayer dollars through the U.S. Federal Department of Transportation it falls under the Buy American policy, which means all iron and steel products must be manufactured in the United States. But because the terminal is located on land owned by the Prince Rupert Port Authority, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) say the policy is unfairly hurting Canadian companies.

“An issue as contentious as Buy American protectionism appearing on federal land in B.C. demands our attention. All municipalities across B.C., and especially the city council of Prince Rupert, should adopt a reciprocity policy for all their infrastructure procurement contracts,” said CME vice-president Marcus Ewert-Johns.

“Someone has to step up for Canada here. This type of protectionist policy has no place in a trade relationship as strong as that between Canada and America,” added CME president and CEO Jayson Myers.

The situation has caught the attention of International Trade Minister Ed Fast, who said his ministry is “aware of and deeply concerned by” the Buy American policy being used on port authority land.

“This situation, occurring shortly following the Morrison, Colorado, bridge debacle, is yet another example of how illogical and counterproductive it is to try to segregate our economies. The extraterritorial application of these protectionist restrictions on trade within Canada by a foreign government is unreasonable,” he said.

“Taxpayers on both sides of the border would benefit from dismantling the trade barriers and inefficiencies created by U.S. protectionist policies such as Buy America … we are exploring all options to address this situation.”

Skeena – Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is asking the government to make sure the Buy American policy applies to this project.

“You can understand their [Prince Rupert residents] surprise and total frustration that a ferry terminal operating on their port, on Canadian federal Crown land, will be subject to Buy American policies,” Cullen said.

“No Canadian steel or iron will be used … this is a direct result of Conservatives’ failure to stand up for Canada.”


August 2012 Northern View original story/backgrounder

The State of Alaska is planning to rebuild its Marine Highway ferry terminal in Prince Rupert.

The terminal was originally built in 1963 and is the only Canadian stop on the state’s extensive coastal ferry system. With the original agreement soon to come to an end, the State of Alaska is currently in negotiations with CN Rail and the Prince Rupert Port Authority for another 50-year lease that is expected to be approved in September.

While the terminal building on the Prince Rupert waterfront was opened in 1993, the old dock has been facing the elements for half a century and is deteriorating, and once a new lease is put in place, it will be replaced.

That project is still in the design stage but Alaska is looking to build a new transfer bridge, abutment, float/lift system and new mooring structures. These are what need to be done, but the state is also looking into the possibility of refurbishing the much newer terminal building and its parking and staging areas.

To make this project happen, the Alaska State Legislature has approved $11-million USD to spend on a new terminal. That figure is purely an estimate, according to the Marine Highway department, once the designs are done, a more accurate cost evaluation will be done.

The project’s manager is hopeful that the design phase will be finished by this time next year, and that the construction contract should go out to bid later that fall.

Because the project is being funded by the state but taking place outside their country, the Marine Highway representative The Prince Rupert Northern View talked to about the project wasn’t certain how the contract will be awarded other than it will have go out to bid.

But the State of Alaska does have a history of advertising contracts that are up for bidding outside their state, in this very newspaper in fact. So it stands to reason that Prince Rupert contractors will have a shot at being awarded the contract.