Looking back at 2011, Prince Rupert Port Authority CEO Don Krusel says it should be one of many record-breaking years to come in a bright future for the group and the region.
The port authority ended the year with 19.3 million tonnes moving through Fairview Terminal, Ridley Terminals, Prince Rupert Grain and through log exports, a number that was up 18 per cent from the year before.
“I remember many ago years thinking that 20 million tonnes would be a great goal to aspire to, an almost unachievable goal. I lamented the fact we were never able to achieve all cylinders firing at the same time – there were some years when Fairview would be up but coal would be down, or coal would be up but grain would be down…What I was very pleased with is that in 2011 we were running on all cylinders,” he said, alluding to the increase in traffic in all facets of port operations.
“I expect that in 2012 we will exceed 20 million tones. We have had two years of record breaking traffic and there is nothing on the horizon that I see that would stop us from seeing record breaking years in the future.”
One of the catalysts for the growth is the continued success of Fairview Terminal, which saw a 20 per cent increase in traffic to end the year at 410,496 TEUs at a time when other ports are trying to maintain market share. According to Krusel, the opening of the terminal did more than open Prince Rupert to container traffic and that some of the recent success elsewhere can be attributed to its presence.
“10 years ago whenever we would talk about the Port of Prince Rupert, the first thing to do was get out an atlas for a geography lesson to show where Prince Rupert was. The opening of Fairview Terminal set that aside…It put Prince Rupert on the map and on the radar of international shippers,” he said, noting that there was some skepticism that the terminal would be a success shortly after its opening in 2007.
“The second thing it did was to validate the business model of the Northern Gateway Corridor into and out of the Asian marketplace for North American goods.”
As for the phase II expansion, Krusel said the goal is to have everything needed in place by year’s end.
“It is in the hands of our terminal operator to make the decision to expand. We’re moving ahead with the permitting, and we hope to have the permits for the expansion of Fairview Terminal at the end of the third quarter of this year. Any time after that there could be shovels in the ground,” he said.
“It doesn’t take a lot of analysis to see that construction of this nature takes time and if we are to continue to grow and meet the needs of shippers that we need to start construction soon.”
One significant milestone for the Prince Rupert Port Authority in 2011 was the signing of an agreement with local First Nations, something that has been many years in the making and something Krusel said will help in the years to come.
“We cannot lose sight of the importance of that agreement. Our competitors used to say that in Prince Rupert we had issues with the First Nations. We don’t have issues with the First Nations, we’re partners. As the port expands the potential for First Nations involvement expands,” he said.
“It’s a win-win. We’re very proud of that agreement.”
As for 2012, Krusel’s biggest wish is for economic stability on the global scale.
“In my mind the only thing that is standing in our way of another record breaking year and more growth in the future is if there is a meltdown in the global economy…I said in 2007 when Fairview opened that Prince Rupert has gone from worrying about the local economy to the global economy, like exchange rates and dollar values. That is so true still today,” he said.
“If my wish is met, the port of Prince Rupert and the community of Prince Rupert can expect an exciting year in 2012 and many exciting years ahead.”