By Laurie Jones
As 2019 began, the bustling Port of Nanaimo saw the arrival of the first of many shipments of European-made vehicles that will be handled through the 60,000-square-foot BC Vehicle Processing Centre (BCVPC), with distribution to dealerships on Vancouver Island and to Vancouver for dispersal throughout Western Canada.
“Including the first ship that will be arriving in February, we are expecting to receive 400 to 500 vehicles per shipment, twice per month, over the course of the first year,” said Ian Marr, CEO for the Nanaimo Port Authority (NPA). He added that the ships will dock at the updated B/C berth at the Nanaimo Assembly Wharf, with new bollards to safely accommodate the larger Pure Car and Truck Carrier (PCTC). The dolphins provide additional anchoring stability at the north and south end of the existing wharf. “These ships have a bigger profile than the regular vessels that come to Nanaimo.”
The $19-million project was a joint effort between the NPA, Western Stevedoring and the National Trade Corridor Fund (NTCF) with Ottawa contributing up to $6.3 million. During its development, Transport Minister Marc Garneau was quoted as saying, “How efficiently we move goods plays a critical role in the health of our economy and so this program, called the National Trade Corridors Fund, is a fund of $2 billion and we’re allocating that to different projects that remove bottlenecks and make our transportation system more efficient.”
Prior to the BC Vehicle Processing Centre coming to fruition, the European vehicles were shipped to Halifax where they were prepared for the Canadian market, then sent by rail or truck across Canada. Now, the ships will traverse the Panama Canal on their way to Nanaimo.
“The BCVPC will be an ongoing economic driver for Nanaimo, employing up to 60 people from the city and creating work for longshore teams, trucking and barge companies,” said Marr, adding that Western Stevedoring will continue to operate the facility while the cars will be driven off the ship and coordinated for distribution by the BCVPC staff.
The BCVPC building was set up in one of two existing warehouses on 17 acres of NPA property at the Nanaimo Assembly Wharf. “The structure was repurposed and improved, with new cladding and many other enhancements added,” Marr explained. “The overall allocated space will not only allow for the operation of the business, but also the movement and parking of hundreds of vehicles in transit. If the BCVPC business grows, we have other options for expansion.”
Another reason Nanaimo was chosen as the Vehicle Processing Centre was its direct, short-sea connection to the Lower Mainland. “There are significant capacity constraints, among other issues, for European Automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers,” said Marr. “With this project, the Nanaimo Port Authority will now be able to utilize their facilities for a new industry and also be an economic driver for business activity on Vancouver Island.”
Marr expressed confidence that, as news of the NPA’s most recent initiative spreads, there will be increased interest in the facilities offered in Nanaimo. “People will be able to see that we are a short distance from Vancouver and able to move products to the Mainland easily. We have definitely had more business inquiries, which is really good.”
In a previous statement, Port of Nanaimo Chair Michelle Corfield said, “This exciting project is the result of a lot of discussions and hard work that is going to result in economic stimulus for Nanaimo. Projects like this don’t happen overnight and we are grateful for the persistence and vision demonstrated by our Port team and our new tenants.”
Ryan McGillis, BCVPC Manager, is looking forward to bringing this opportunity to Vancouver Island. “This new service is exciting for everybody involved in the retail automotive industry in Western Canada. Our goal is to be the highest quality provider to both dealers and manufacturers. We want to set the standard for processing vehicles.”
Dave Lucas, Senior Vice President, Western Stevedoring, said, “The auto companies will benefit from an efficient supply chain, avoiding the bottlenecks of Greater Vancouver. Vancouver Island will benefit with the creation of good jobs and economic activity.” He added that Western Stevedoring is eager to see greater industry diversification in Nanaimo. “Our company was founded on Vancouver Island in 1948 and we are very excited to be expanding our business on the Island by bringing this auto operation to Nanaimo.”
Prior to the first ship’s arrival, Marr noted one of the NPA staff members travelled with BCVPC staff to Long Beach, California, to observe similar operations. “They moved 1,600 cars in three hours prior to the next stage of processing and distribution,” he said.
Chief Operating Officer for the Port, Mike Davidson, further observed that the Cruise Ship Welcome Centre — a state-of-the-art passenger terminal opened in May 2011 — was the first project to initiate light industrial use for the Nanaimo Assembly Wharf. The cruise dock is not used for cargo although it has been utilized to moor barges on occasion and for specialized work on specific BC Ferries vessels. “The advancement of the BCVPC provides another completed stage for advantages provided by this location,” he said. “The right type of project that fits all the parameters takes time to identify, to negotiate with partners, to gain community support and various levels of required funding, all with an objective to provide long-term economic stimulus for the region.”