A number of common themes ran through discussions with terminal operators for this year’s update, none more so than efforts to increase capacities through modernization and operational efficiencies. Aside from the sensible business case made for increasing capacity, gains are also being seen in lowering carbon footprints: new equipment meant to handle more cargo brings state-of-the-art technology designed to reduce impacts on the environment; redeveloping access routes to gain efficiencies are reducing truck traffic and idling times — again, benefiting the environment.
But challenges abound. Cumbersome, often “fractured” permitting processes that take years to complete was, by far, the biggest issue for all. And while not necessarily in the “challenge” category, many are watching ILWU/BCMEA labour negotiations, albeit all were optimistic and emphasized a positive working relationship that continues even without having had an agreement in place for one year. Global trade tariffs and disputes are also being watched closely.
While Part 2 of our B.C. terminal update will be featured in the September issue (with an in-depth look at the grain terminal industry), looking at overall throughput volumes for B.C.’s ports, steady growth continues to be realized. Vancouver’s four per cent increase in total tonnage in 2018 continued the upward annual trend of growth that falls in the range of three to five per cent. Prince Rupert enjoyed a solid 10 per cent growth overall for 2018 with some terminals — Ridley and Fairview for example — surpassing that average. For Port Alberni, the loss of Western Forest Products lumber was offset by growth in the domestic log trade. And for the Port of Nanaimo, a 10 per cent decrease in exports was more than made up for by a 73 per cent increase in import cargo.
Here then, is a snapshot of terminal activity in B.C.
DP World Canada
DP World Canada’s Maksim Mihic, General Manager, had much to report for this year’s update, starting with the most recent news of the acquisition of Fraser Surrey Docks. “We have signed a share purchase agreement to acquire 100 per cent from the Macquarie Group subject to regulatory approvals,” he said, adding that it was a great opportunity for both DP World Canada — who will add a complementary facility to their existing footprint on Canada’s West Coast — and Fraser Surrey Docks — who will benefit from being part of the larger network.
Mihic also had positive reports for activities at Fairview Terminal in Prince Rupert, Centerm in Vancouver and Duke Point Terminal in Nanaimo.
Fairview Terminal hit a milestone last December as it surpassed the millionth container for the first time in a calendar year. Mihic reported growth of about twelve per cent over 2017 and was seeing numbers more in line with Vancouver in Q1 2019. While attributing some of the traffic to the U.S. tariffs, Mihic indicated there were challenges with forecasting the remainder of the year given the uncertainty around continued tariffs and upcoming IMO regulations. “There may be a bit of a rush in the fourth quarter to avoid the new sulphur regulations,” he said.
With the Phase II North expansion now complete, DP World Canada is already 10 months into the permitting phase for the next expansion, Phase IIB. In collaboration with the Port of Prince Rupert and CN, DP World is expecting that work will start by the end of this year and will be complete by Q1 2022. The project includes further expanding on-dock rail capacity as well as growing the container yard from its current 32 hectares to 41 hectares and the addition of an eighth dock gantry crane. All in, Fairview will have a capacity of 1.8 million TEUs.
Looking to the future, Mihic sees even more growth opportunities for Fairview. Indeed, discussions on what that would look like are already underway with the Port who is developing a master plan.
Turning to DP World’s Centerm, Mihic reported that the terminal followed the general trend of cargo throughput in Vancouver, about 4.5 per cent. However, the big news for Centerm is that, after a seven-year planning, approval and permitting process, work is starting on the expansion project that will see capacity increase by a whopping 66 per cent.
“With just an increase of 15 per cent of our footprint for the yard, we’ll be realizing huge gains,” he said, noting that one of the biggest increases will come from the rail expansion from 8,000 feet to 15,000 feet. “We’re also adding 75 metres to the berth, densifying the yard and putting in a new gate.” Another big change will be the new office, located in the historic Ballantyne Pier building.
For DP World’s operations at Nanaimo’s Duke Point, Mihic again sees great opportunities for growth, especially with the shortage of industrial land in the Lower Mainland. “The closest land available is in Nanaimo,” he said, envisioning (and discussing with the Port of Nanaimo) a consolidated terminal for mixed commodities with new handling facilities for pulp, lumber and containers, an extended berth and new gate, all to provide for a more competitive solution for the 2.5 to three million metric tonnes of cargo that leaves Vancouver Island every year. “We did a study of Vancouver Island and it is a sizeable market in its own right with an estimated capacity for about 300,000 to 350,000 TEUs,” Mihic said. “The first step is to build a facility and allow for the logistics to grow around it.”
This vision for Nanaimo perfectly describes the shift being seen in DP World’s overall business strategy: “We want to be trade enablers,” he said, “providing better solutions for exporters, from the mill to the final customer; and for importers – from factory to assembly line.”
With opportunities however, come challenges and Mihic had a list, starting with Canadian competitiveness. “The challenge for Canada is to get their exports into the Asian market. Without exports, importing ships can choose any route they want on the North American west coast.”
Mihic also reflected on how DP World Canada is meeting the challenge of decreasing their carbon footprint and making terminal operations more environmentally friendly. “At both Centerm and Fairview, we will have completely equipped both facilities with LED lights by the end of the year, reducing our electricity consumption by half. Last year, in collaboration with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and Transport Canada, we introduced shore power to Centerm — the first of its kind in Canada that adheres to international standards for container vessels. And our goal for the logistics centre in Prince Rupert is to be fully carbon neutral with innovative unit trains that will eliminate a good portion of the trucking.”
Global Container Terminals
At the end of 2018 and entering 2019, volumes were strong and continue to look positive for GCT Global Container Terminals as GCT Deltaport welcomed new PN4 and ZP9 services from THE Alliance and Zim respectively. GCT Deltaport serves the largest ships on the transpacific trade lane, including the biggest 13,300 TEU vessels calling the Vancouver Gateway from the THE Alliance’s PN3 service this year.
As a homegrown private company headquartered in Vancouver, GCT has made some significant investments in Canada, spending over $650 million in staged terminal upgrades in the past 10 years alone. In September 2018, GCT Canada went live with the GCT Deltaport Intermodal Yard Reconfiguration project, a $300-million expansion that densified the railyard and sustainably increased capacity by 50 per cent, all within its existing footprint. The terminals capacity is set to grow from 1.8 million TEUs to 2.4 million TEUs.
“In our recently completed GCT Deltaport Intermodal Yard Reconfiguration project, we continued to work in close cooperation with our workforce, transitioning our rail operations from a conventional operation to a semi-automated mode, improving workplace safety and cargo velocity through process improvement and design,” said Doron Grosman, President & CEO. “The railyard is now largest and most advanced ship-to-rail discharge facility in the world.”
Grosman added that the capacity for GCT Vanterm in Burrard Inlet will also increase by approximately 25 per cent through a recently announced $160-million investment for improved infrastructure, equipment and processes while remaining within the same footprint. Improvements include berth-side upgrades such as the replacement of two ship-to-shore cranes with new ones featuring high-efficiency regenerative drives and LED lighting while the height of another existing crane will either be raised to accommodate larger ships, or replaced. New fenders and bollards will be added to the berth face and shore power connectivity could be introduced in collaboration with the Port Authority and other relevant stakeholders. To accommodate the increased volume, container stacks will be elevated to five containers high, densifying operations at the terminal and modernized high-efficiency equipment such as new yard cranes and tractor trailers will further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“GCT Canada is committed to strong environmental performance and is Green Marine and Climate Smart certified,” said Doron Grosman, President & CEO, “In the voluntary Green Marine program, GCT terminals scored 96 per cent overall, achieving ‘Excellence & Leadership’ in nearly every category. Moreover, through our membership in Climate Smart greenhouse gas emissions program, results showed that from 2014-17, the company achieved a 5.9 per cent emissions reduction per 1,000 TEUs, even as our volumes grew by 6.1 per cent during the same period, demonstrating that business growth can be decoupled from emissions growth.”
Despite all of the investments and upgrades, the bigger story for GCT lies in their efforts to move forward with GCT Deltaport Berth 4. “We are looking ahead to prepare for our next incremental stage of development to meet projected container traffic demands on the West Coast of British Columbia,” said Grosman. “That is why we have advanced the GCT Deltaport Fourth Berth Expansion (DP4) project. It is a sustainable, phased, and privately-funded expansion of our existing terminal footprint at Roberts Bank to add a fourth berth, delivering required capacity while minimizing impact on our neighbours, environment, Indigenous fishing grounds, and our workforce.”
Following years of expert analysis and preliminary studies, the proposed GCT Deltaport Berth 4 expansion project was determined to be feasible, leading to the application of a Preliminary Project Enquiry (PPE) for regulatory review of the DP4 project to Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA). “Surprisingly, GCT received a response from the VFPA stating that it would not even accept our application for review stating their preference for their own proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project as one of the reasons,” said Grosman.
As a result, GCT’s only option was to file a judicial review of the decision by the VFPA to block the GCT Deltaport Berth 4 project from proceeding through the outlined Port Authority regulatory approval process. “All that GCT is seeking is a fair, transparent, and independent review of the GCT Deltaport Berth 4 project,” Grosman continued. “GCT’s Deltaport Berth 4 project cannot have a reasonable and independent review as long as VFPA is our landlord, regulator, and competitor.”
A quick look at Westshore Terminals 2018 Annual Report and their 2019 First Quarter report show healthy operations continue at the largest coal loading facility on the west coast of the Americas. On time and under budget is the big news as Westshore comes to the end of their six-year, $270-million capital project (the final cost was $260 million) that saw three stacker/reclaimers and a shiploader at Berth 1 replaced as well as additional operational efficiencies including a consolidated office and maintenance complex. The project, completed at the end of Q1 this year, is estimated to add an extra two million tonnes per year of capacity.
Year over year, Westshore has been steadily increasing exports of both metallurgical (steel-making) and thermal coal. A slight decline in metallurgical coal for 2018 was offset by greater volumes of thermal coal. During 2018, 57 per cent of Westshore’s volume was steel-making coal (62 per cent in 2017) and 42 per cent was thermal (39 per cent in 2017). Petroleum coke made up the balance at less than one per cent for both years.
In looking at the destinations of Westshore’s exports, by far, Korea is the largest customer. Combining Korea and Japan accounted for 61 per cent of total throughput (about 18.7 million tonnes), and shipments to India, Europe and China accounted for 26 per cent (about 7.9 million tonnes).
In 2018, Neptune handled a total of 16.1 million MT between all three commodities: steelmaking coal, potash and inbound phosphate rock. Lisa Dooling, Neptune’s Director of Community and Stakeholder Engagement, noted that phosphate rock operations were discontinued as of the first quarter of 2019 as a result of Nutrien’s decision to shut down phosphate production at its facility near Redwater, Alberta. The final phosphate rock ship to call at Neptune was the bulk carrier ZEYNO with unloading completed March 20, 2019. “This will free up capacity at our Berth 3 for more potash loading in 2019,” she said.
Dooling was especially proud to report on the actions taken by Neptune that were resulting in significant improvements, not just adding to the efficiency of the terminal but also improving their environmental profile. “We were very pleased to be informed that we have been selected as one of three recipients of the Port of Vancouver’s 2018 Blue circle award for energy action. This award acknowledges the highest level of participation in the Port’s program which recognizes commitment to energy conservation,” she said, adding that Neptune also continues to be a proud member of Green Marine and Climate Smart, and is certified by both programs. “We recently completed the external audit of our 2018 Green Marine participation and have maintained our strong performance at the leadership level — recognition that we continue to improve our environmental systems in all areas.”
Additional activities related to environmental stewardship saw Neptune partner with Ocean Wise as a sponsor of the Pollution Tracker program. The initiative measures and documents the levels and trends of hundreds of contaminants of concern in mussel and nearshore ocean sediments at select monitoring stations along B.C.’s coast. Neptune’s funding will be used specifically for a station near their terminal operations on the North Shore of Burrard Inlet (check out: http://pollutiontracker.org/ for more on the program).
Neptune is also actively participating in the Burrard Inlet Action Plan, led by the Tsleil Waututh Nation to improve the environmental health and integrity of Burrard Inlet. In addition, Dooling noted that “ships calling at Neptune had a high rate of participation in the Port of Vancouver’s ECHO initiative last year.” The program is working to evaluate the impact of ships slowing down to reduce noise impacts on whales in their feeding grounds.
As if that wasn’t enough, work on Neptune’s Dust Suppression/Spray Pole project has now begun. “This project is part of our ongoing effort to continuously improve our environmental management and minimize impacts of our operations on the neighbouring community,” said Dooling. “It involves replacing the existing wooden spray poles with new steel spray poles and oscillating yard sprays in strategic locations.” The new system will optimize water coverage of the steelmaking coal and further enhance the terminal’s ability to prevent dust from leaving the site, particularly during high wind events. It will be fully automated to optimize water usage. The project will be constructed in three phases, beginning with Phase 1 from October 22, 2018 until June 2019.
Dooling also reported that their Steelmaking Coal System Upgrade is now well underway and will be completed by the first quarter of 2021. “Upgrades include a second tandem railcar dumper, a replacement of our Berth 1 ship loader, which will allow us to better load Cape sized vessels without warping, supporting conveyors, and an additional rail track.” These upgrades are expected to increase Neptune’s coal handling capacity from the current 12.5 million MT annually to at least 20 million MT.
And last but certainly not least, Neptune welcomed Claus Thornberg who took over the role of President when Jim Belsheim retired. Originally from Denmark by way of Calgary, Thornberg is an international business leader with extensive experience in the shipping and energy sectors. He brings a combination of technical, operations and strategic expertise that will benefit Neptune as it pursues further optimization and growth in the years ahead.
Pacific Coast Terminals
Having taken over as Vice President and General Manager following Wade Leslie’s promotion to President & CEO in 2018, Andre Olivier reported on positive trends being seen with PCT’s four commodities. “2018 was busy across the board,” he said, with PCT handling over four million tonnes of cargo. “We handled record volumes of canola oil as PCT shipped close to 900,000 tonnes for the year.” Both canola and glycol are projected to be on budget for 2019 in spite of a slow start to the year due to inclement weather and associated rail impacts. Forecasts for sulphur and potash also remain strong and on budget for 2019 with overall commodity shipments expected to be above 2018 volumes.
With the major infrastructure projects completed and being optimized (with longer-term commissioning items being addressed), focus has been on other critical projects on site to improve efficiencies and operations. When asked about capacity at the Port Moody terminal, Olivier indicated that they still had some room available which may lead to new opportunities in the future. “We’re continuously looking for ways to optimize and improve efficiencies,” he said. Further opportunities include working with the Industry to continuously improve common safety practices.
Olivier noted the long-awaited shipping channel dredging project had been substantially completed after several years of permitting delays. Minor residual dredging work on the shipping channel still remains, which will be done in August after the Federal Fisheries closure period.
Issues that Olivier is monitoring include the industry-wide collective bargaining — “I’m optimistic that a deal will be struck soon and realistic about what the potential outcomes will be.” Another issue being watched closely is that of the regulatory process and what the Federal Government may or may not enact later this year with regards to the permitting processes for new developments, upgrades or modifications to existing infrastructure.
Western Stevedoring / The Western Group
As B.C.’s largest and most diversified, full-service stevedoring and terminal operator, The Western Group can now be found in every port in the province. “Over the last number of years, we have grown and diversified the company and have transitioned from primarily a stevedoring company to a fully integrated marine logistics company with over 1,500 employees, handling multiple commodities and operating in every port in B.C.,” said Brad Eshleman, President of Western Stevedoring.
Eshleman provided the following highlights:
Lynnterm Expansion and Mountain Highway Underpass — Western’s core business and priority focus remains breakbulk and they are working with the Port of Vancouver to provide more capacity for breakbulk cargo at their Lynnterm location in North Vancouver. A 15-acre expansion project, adjacent to the north end of the site is underway and slated for completion by Q1 2020, including relocation of storage sheds, operational buildings and a brand new maintenance facility that opened earlier this year. The Mountain Highway Underpass project will increase the headroom of the existing underpass which connects Lynnterm to the BC Highways network and improves the key pinch point in servicing oversized project-cargo destined for Canadian locations. The project is currently in the design, permitting and consultation phase, and construction is expected to commence later this year.
Steel Volumes — “Western experienced a significant surge of inbound steel in 2018 and to date in 2019, both through Lynnterm and Squamish Terminals,” said Eshleman. “Over the past year our operations team has worked closely with our customers, trucking companies and stakeholders to maximize capacity by working weekends, closely managing inventory, increasing terminal fluidity and securing additional off-dock laydown space to assist with the throughput of cargo. We have been successful in increasing the throughput at each terminal well beyond what was thought to be their maximum capacity limitations.”
Off-Dock — Western, through subsidiary Coast 2000, operates off-dock facilities in Richmond and Prince Rupert. Earlier this year, Coast 2000 started working closely with Western’s JV partner Tidal Transport to operate Tidal Coast Terminal and CT Terminal off-dock facilities in Prince Rupert. Coast 2000 and Tidal continue to focus on providing superior off-dock solutions for their forestry customers and are well positioned to offer solutions for other commodities as container volumes continue to grow in Vancouver and Prince Rupert.
Kitimat — Western just concluded its first general cargo vessel in Kitimat, providing stevedoring services for the BBC Greenland on behalf of a prime contractor for LNG Canada. Western and the ILWU worked together to provide ship stevedoring services for the largest private-sector project in Canadian history.
BC Vehicle Processing Centre (BCVPC) — The new auto handling facility and world-class vehicle processing centre, jointly funded by Western, Transport Canada and the Port of Nanaimo, welcomed the first vessel in March 2019. Western is providing vessel stevedoring services at the terminal and subsidiary company BCVPC is providing vehicle processing services for Mercedes Benz. “Mercedes Benz approached SSA Marine and Western looking for a terminal solution in Western Canada,” said Eshleman. “We developed this unique all-water route from Europe to Western Canada in conjunction with Mercedes, our core customer and business partner.” He added that a long-term lease was entered into with the Port of Nanaimo which includes the potential to expand for additional business.
Cruise — Western’s team at Ogden Point Cruise Terminal, continues to enjoy a strong partnership with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and is poised to coordinate cruise services for approximately 685,000 passengers this 2019 cruise season. Victoria is the largest layover cruise port in Canada and the cruise industry is projecting more growth in the future as the popularity of the Alaska cruise continues.
Safety — Eshleman emphasized that safety is embedded in Western’s Mission statement and is a top priority for the entire Western organization. They continue to drive key safety initiatives in their operations as well as at the Industry level, working in collaboration with its employees, ILWU, other employers and the BCMEA to continually strive for a heightened focus on safety and a culture that puts safety front and centre in everyone’s mind.
Environment — Noting just a few of the initiatives the team carries out — comprehensive stakeholder engagement and environmental assessments on new projects, participation in Climate Smart, certification in Green Marine, conversion program of its terminal cargo-handling equipment to electric and continual upgrades of its bus fleet (PNWTS bus charter) servicing the cruise industry in Victoria — Eshleman said “Western is continually looking for ways to reduce its environmental footprint including Western staff forming a ‘Green Team’ of environmentally conscious employees to bring ideas and solutions forward.”
In a final message to BC Shipping News, Eshleman said: “We are fortunate to be part of the Pacific Gateway and look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with our customers, stakeholders and employees in providing transportation and logistics solutions to handle Canada’s trade requirements well into the future.”
As reported in the last issue of BC Shipping News, the big news for Tidal’s Tymac Launch Service was the announced partnership with Terrapure Environmental to jointly manage cruise ship and marine-sector waste at all B.C. ports. The new arrangement comes with significant expansion and investment in equipment. At the time of the announcement, Ron Brinkhurst, President of Tymac’s parent company, Tidal Transport, said: “Our dedicated environmental solutions team is always seeking to identify new technologies and waste disposal processes that enhance not only the services we provide but encourage environmental sustainability, reduce overall disposal costs and create positive customer experiences. Working alongside Terrapure allows us to continue to do just that.”
But that’s not the only change for Tidal. Starting first with a look at Tidal Coast Terminals (TCT) in Prince Rupert, TCT, along with Western Stevedoring subsidiary Coast 2000, is now fully managing the facility, taking over yard operations from prime contractor Bear Creek Contracting. “That was a significant change,” said Brinkhurst. “It started in January of this year with our log processing yard at Tidal Coast Terminals followed by the assumption of all the lumber operations on March 1.” While it’s been a huge commitment in terms of staffing and equipment, Brinkhurst felt it was necessary to improve customer experience. “And Western Stevedoring’s relationship and Coast2000, it was a natural fit.” Brinkhurst further noted that a significant investment has been made on construction work and yard improvements with an additional expansion planned for the future.
In terms of activity at the Terminal, Brinkhurst reported that log volumes were tracking to similar volumes from last year but noted that 2018 was about 30 per cent lower than 2017 due to a rapid drop in exports to Korea. On the container loading service, volumes were up slightly and he expects that activity will be very similar to last year’s numbers.
One new piece of business for Tidal is the handling of shipments of pile and equipment for the Rio Tinto berth extension in Kitimat. “We’ve done the first of four expected vessels. From ship to barge, barge through TCT, onto trucks and delivered to Kitimat — we arranged the discharge of the vessel with Western Stevedoring and carried right through to delivery in Kitimat, trucking included,” Brinkhurst said, adding that the operation had been very successful.
For Tidal’s other operations in Prince Rupert, CT Terminals, the joint venture with the Coast Tshimshian Nation — which started using the management services of Coast 2000 in March 2019 — Brinkhurst reported that activity was “flat,” seeing about 45 containers per week being loaded with lumber coming in by rail.When asked about issues, like other terminals operators, Brinkhurst is closely watching ILWU/BCMEA negotiations. “ILWU workers and employers have been without a contract for a year now and it’s one of the most important issues on our radar right now,” he said but was pleased with the existing positive relationship the group enjoys with labour and was hopeful a resolution would come soon.
Fraser Surrey Docks
With the addition of SM Line vessels that started to visit Fraser Surrey Docks in May 2018, President & CEO Jeff Scott was happy to report a quadrupling of container volumes. “Notwithstanding the SM Line volume, we’re seeing year-over-year growth of about two to three per cent,” he said, adding that, through a densification and fluidity strategy, they have been able to maintain their breakbulk capacity while accommodating the increase in containers.
Steel volumes held steady at about 700,000 metric tonnes last year and Scott continues to see an increase in demand for steel despite what’s happening in the marketplace. “Given that the overall capacity in the gateway is shrinking, we have to find ways to be more efficient — not just in handling the current volume but also anticipating future growth.”
The densification and fluidity strategy has had the FSD team assessing the way they stack and sort cargo and looking for ways to minimize sorting to reduce the overall free time the cargo remains on the dock. “We’ve been working with customers, the trucking companies and others to find ways to increase the speed at which steel is removed from our terminal,” said Scott. “It’s been quite positive — improving how we stack, store and reduce sorting to maximize density has resulted in increased turnover.”
In addition to improving processes, Scott has been focused on modernizing the fleet, including investments into new pieces of equipment like forklifts, container handling equipment and potentially a refurbished crane for back up. He also noted that they’re looking at infrastructure improvements to help with the container gate flow, steel gate flow and road access with a goal to create better fluidity outside the terminal with the road/rail network and connections.
While the proposed coal facility project was cancelled by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority in February 2019 (“no comment,” said Scott), FSD’s other major project — the new Fraser Grain Terminal — is now under construction by joint partner Parrish & Heimbecker. The new agri-facility, scheduled for completion by September 2020, will add an extra 3.5mt capacity to the current volume of just over one million metric tonnes.
When asked about recent news that Fraser Surrey Docks was for sale, Scott confirmed that they were “actively engaged in the sale process which was nearing completion.” He later confirmed that DP World Canada had acquired 100 per cent of the terminal (for more on this, see the section with DP World Canada’s Maksim Mihic).
Other issues on Scott’s radar include monitoring discussions about the George Massey Tunnel replacement project. “We currently accommodate vessels with a maximum capacity of 55,000 dwt which coincides with an 11.5 metre draft; however we continue to promote the fact that we can increase navigational depth to 13.1 metres even with the existing tunnel in place.” Noting that current plans call for a replacement tunnel, Scott said that as long as the new tunnel was as deep or deeper, there wouldn’t be an impact.
And, as with all terminal operators, Scott is keeping a close eye on ILWU/BCMEA labour negotiations. “It’s in mediation and we’re trying to work through that as effectively as we can to avoid labour disruptions,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we can find a solution.”
Other areas of focus for Scott continue to be dredging as well as making sure there is alignment between all the changes in regulations within the different government departments — for example, the DFO fisheries openings and changes around those regulations and the pressure that puts on schedules and timing. “There needs to be better dialogue between all parties to make sure everyone understands the impacts of changes and ensuring everyone’s needs are met.”
To help with issues like fostering dialogue and communication, Scott continues to lead the Fraser River Industrial Association, a not-for-profit organization that has a mandate to heighten awareness of the importance of Fraser River industry and to provide opportunities for outreach and discussions. One issue in particular the FRIA has been working with members to address is the changes that resulted when the Port divested some of its assets back to the Provincial Government. “The permitting processes have changed so we’re helping our members work through challenges such as delays in permit approvals (what used to take 10 to 14 days now takes six to nine months),” he said. “The FRIA has been reaching out to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to lend assistance in terms of identifying issues and working with staff to make improvements.”
In speaking with Kleo Landucci, Chief Commercial & Corporate Affairs Officer for Ashcroft Terminal (AT), the partnership with PSA International announced last July has been working out extremely well. “We were very excited to be PSA’s first investment in North America,” she said. “From our side, it has brought structure but also the ability to tap into operational excellence on a global scale. We’re now able to access the knowledge of over 30,000 colleagues and look for ways to bring best practices, technologies and new systems into this part of the world.” Landucci further noted that this knowledge was one of the objectives of their search for the right investor and operational partner and that “every day confirms that the reach and depth that PSA brings has made a great marriage.”
In terms of activity at Ashcroft, Landucci reported that the inland terminal is seeing a lot of increased interest from customers in all sectors of oil and gas, forestry, mining and agriculture despite current market trends. “We continue to see upwards trends in moving volumes because of the value we can add to their supply chain. It’s all about understanding the logistical and supply chain costs, challenges and solutions that we can provide for shippers.”
The upward trend in interest from both importers and exporters bodes well for AT’s expansion program currently underway. Just prior to announcing the new partnership with PSA, AT launched a $28-million expansion of rail and other support infrastructure onto AT’s industrial terminal. In addition to tying into CN’s main line and adding about 20,000 feet of new track, another 20,000 feet of track is being added to the CP infrastructure that is currently in place, bringing the CP portion of track to 52,000 feet. “With this build, we will also add an export process facility to handle forestry products and we’re upgrading a variety of utilities to support the growth,” Landucci said, adding that it was with the support of Transport Canada to the tune of 30 per cent of overall funding that the three-year project has been made possible.
Over and above her focus on the expansion project as well as “actively recruiting and building up the team,” Landucci indicated that another business segment —that of an intermodal program — has been identified as an upcoming project. “We’re working with importers and exporters to be able to stuff, dyestuff, transload and work through a match-back program to service the intermodal container business,” she said. “We have a lot on our plate right now with the demand on our existing bulk and fleet management business in addition to managing and executing on a very important expansion that’s underway.”
As part of their efforts in recruiting staff, Landucci emphasized the importance of working with the Village of Ashcroft to ensure housing needs can be met. “We prefer our labour to be based in Ashcroft and involved in the community before moving out to surrounding areas,” she said. “We have an active effort in building our human resource management and resources to ensure we’re going after the right people and help them to integrate into the community.”
Taking a brief look at Port Alberni’s terminal activity (a more in-depth review is scheduled for the September ports issue), David McCormick (Director, Public Relations & Business Development) and Mike Carter (Director of Operations) provided some of the highlights for the year, including three cruise ship calls scheduled. Cruise ships will anchor at harbour this year with passengers brought ashore to Centennial Pier at Harbour Quay in the ship’s tender vessels.
Port Alberni also continues to be home port to the Raw Spirit which is bringing in over 10,000 metric tonnes of hake on an annual basis. The fish is frozen at sea (FAS) on board the ship, off-loaded at the Port’s Berth 1, where it is then loaded onto reefer containers and sent to Centerm Terminal in Vancouver before being shipped over to Asia. McCormick attributes the presence of the expanding business to a number of favourable features. “First and foremost, we’re close to the catch, but we also were able to offer an available facility at an attractive rate and we have an available, young and determined labour pool,” he said.
And while lumber hasn’t been exported from Port Alberni for over a year now —ever since Western Forest Products shifted their transportation logistics — Carter was pleased to report on a healthy domestic log trade that continues to grow, up as much as 25 per cent in Q1 2019. “We’re seeing the same number of ship calls but the big difference is that they’re staying longer, taking on more volume here,” he said.
Other initiatives that will be expanded on in our September report include the development of a maritime cluster with Canadian Marine Engineering providing a solid foundation. “CME, the City, the Province and the Port worked on a business case for a floating dry dock facility,” said McCormick. “And we continue to offer incentives to help forward the strategy of a marine cluster in Port Alberni.”
McCormick also reported that the Port has an agreement in principal to use a portion of the former fish plant for seafood processing. The port is providing matching funds with the operator to make some improvements to the property. “This is an example of how business-friendly and enthusiastic we are to grow port activities,” he said. “We’re taking a creative, partnership approach to developing new opportunities for the region and we’re starting to see all the pieces come together.”