Prince Rupert Port Authority CEO reflects on PRPA’s 40th anniversary

While not largely acknowledged, March 23, 1972, would play a major role in the development and future of Prince Rupert

While not largely acknowledged, March 23, 1972, would play a major role in the development and future of Prince Rupert

It was on this day the National Harbours Board assumed title of federally owned land and water lots in Prince Rupert and the Prince Rupert Port Authority was created to administer and manage local port activities.

In the last 40 years, the growth of Prince Rupert as a port has been quite spectacular, says president and CEO Don Krusel.

“Prince Rupert called itself a port in 1972, but it was not really much of a port. Since then it’s astounding to see where we came from. At the time Fairview terminal didn’t exist, Prince Rupert Grain didn’t exist – although there was a government grain terminal that was struggling – we didn’t have the coal terminal and we certainly didn’t have a cruise terminal,” said Krusel, who will have been with the Port Authority for 25 years this December and has served as CEO for the last 20 years.

“If one were to graph the progress of the port, it would be a gradual rise for the first 20 years, then it would get much steeper. In the last five years it would get even steeper…I think the slow rise was the struggle of Prince Rupert to gain recognition of its potential. We have to thank the early pioneers, like Dr. Hick and Joe Scott, who pressured the government and other industry to recognize Prince Rupert.”

That lobbying effort resulted in the opening of Prince Rupert Grain and Ridley Terminals in the 1980s, which joined Fairview bulk terminal that opened in 1977. But Krusel said the biggest turning point of the past 40 years happened with the opening of the new Fairview Terminal in 2007.

“With the opening of Ridley Island with a grain and coal terminal, it put Prince Rupert on a new plain of recognition, but the huge turning point was Fairview Terminal being converted to a container terminal. Until then, one could say that Prince Rupert was a regional port…We had no international recognition and unless you were a shipper of someone buying the product you knew nothing of Prince Rupert,” he said.

“Once it became a container facility, Prince Rupert was known around North America and literally around the world…Because of that success and that recognition, it adds to our ability to attract more customers and more business to Prince Rupert.”

When asked if he could have envisioned what the Port of Prince Rupert would become, Krusel said he and others who worked with the Prince Rupert Port Authority in the past 40 years felt something like this was possible.

“If you look at the strategic plans 15 years ago, there is talk that our time was coming. There was talk about the growth in China and Asia, and about Prince Rupert being the closest port to those markets. It took longer to realize that potential than envisioned, but we’re now harvesting that potential,” he said.

“For the longest time the talk was about a port of potential, but one that was always falling short. Now we are the port of prosperity and we’re realizing that potential…Back then the challenge was how to harvest that potential and grow. Now the challenge is how to hold on to this racing horse that’s galloping down the track.”

With 40 years now come and gone, Krusel said people on the North Coast can expect much more to come in the decades ahead.

“We have the land, the efficiency and the economy to capitalize on our potential. The stage is set for a dramatic increase…We’ve been focussed for the last 20 years on growing. Now that the growth is coming we have to look at how we grow. We don’t want growth just for growth’s sake,” he said, adding that growth should be done securely, safely and sustainably.

“You won’t recognize this port 20 years from now. Barring a world economic catastrophe, the stage is set for Prince Rupert to play a key role in trade between North America and Asia.”