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In Our Opinion: Build now to avoid a bottleneck

Why $22M from the federal government into Prince Rupert’s port is just the beginning
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minster of Transport described Prince Rupert described the region as ‘poised for growth’ when he announced $22M in federal investment to grow the port. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Poised for growth.

That was how the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minster of Transport described Prince Rupert.

Terry Beech was in town on Nov. 7 to announce nearly $22-million in federal investment for the growth of Canada’s second largest port and closest trade gateway to Asia.

A recent focus in the paper was on the micro-perspective of business, what we see from day to day. The businesses shutting down, and the questionable future for retail. However, when you look at Prince Rupert from Ottawa’s eyes, with AltaGas coming online in 2019, and Vopak investigating a storage and export facility on Ridley, the upcoming sale of Ridley Terminals… the region is already growing, with potential for much more growth ­­— which is why avoiding the foreseeable bottleneck is key right now.

READ MORE: Government invests nearly $22M in Port of Prince Rupert

Much of federal investment is going into a two-lane road to divert traffic from downtown, and to improve travel times to Fairview Terminal by 22 minutes. To compare, the Airport Board shaved off 20-30 minutes for passengers leaving the Rupert airport for downtown. That’s a noticeable amount of time.

But the rail bottleneck is the big one.

There’s going to be a lot of product-by-rail transported to the North Coast in the near future. AltaGas plans to ship 1.2-million tonnes of propane annually, Pembina on Watson Island, intends to ship 600,000 tonnes of propane a year, Ridley Terminals expects to ship nine-million tonnes of coal this year — a train was set to arrive on Nov. 14 with 218 cars — and in the near future it wants to expand to load two vessels simultaneously. At Fairview, containerized cargo is up 15 per cent from the previous year, and pellet shipments from Westview Terminal is up eight per cent.

Phase 2B expansion plans to increase throughput to 1.8 million TEUs once complete in 2022, by then Vopak may have been approved and possibly even in operation. Vopak’s project description states there will be 240 rail cars per day at full capacity.

Then to our south in Kitimat there’s a propane project in the works that could add another 60 rail cars a day to the region.

Poised for growth, the North Coast has its pockets wide open waiting for more investment from the federal government, and other stakeholders, to ensure a well-prepared rail network for the swelling North Coast trade industry.

READ MORE: Trade continues to increase through Port of Prince Rupert

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