Port growth and container terminals

The phrase “Canada is a trading nation” is one often heard, but what does it really mean and how does it impact Vancouver’s port?

Canada has an abundance of natural resources and agricultural products that other countries need and want to buy from us. Those exports create jobs in farming, logging, mining and many other trade-related jobs for hundreds of thousands of Canadians. At the same time, Canadians are eager to purchase a broad range of goods made in other countries: clothing, electronics, specialty foods, engine parts, and the list goes on. And to add to that, our government is pursuing trade agreements around the world and in particular with Asia.

Trade is growing with no signs of a slowdown, according to independent reports.

As a Canadian port authority, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is mandated by the Canada Marine Act to facilitate Canada’s trade objectives. We must not only ensure current trade is being handled safely and securely, we must also plan for the future, anticipating what is to come and making sure we are ready. In addition, we are required to operate in a sustainable way and with consideration for local communities. It’s a delicate balancing act we live every day.

There is precious little available industrial land left in the Lower Mainland that is suitable for trade-related development, so our approach to growth is twofold: Use the land we have now as efficiently as possible, and develop new terminals responsibly.

With respect to the land we have now, we work with terminal operators – our tenants – to help them get the most out of every square metre of land they use. That may mean using new technology, reconfiguring space or building new structures.

We also work with all levels of government and industry to build new infrastructure that improves the use of existing lands. Examples are roads like the South Fraser Perimeter Road in Surrey and Delta, the Low Level Road in North Vancouver, and a series of overpasses replacing rail and road crossings in Delta and Langley.

Shipping by containers accounts for much of the growth in port activity. Natural resources like forestry products and specialty grains are being shipped to Asia in containers and consumer and manufacturing goods are coming back. Independent forecasts show this trade is growing at a rate of about 4.5 per cent per year.

To accommodate growth, changes to existing terminals are underway, such as the Centerm Expansion Project that proposes to increase the container handling ability of the Centerm terminal by approximately two-thirds by increasing its terminal footprint square footage by approximately 15 per cent.

However, these changes to existing terminals, including planned expansions at Prince Rupert, are not enough to manage this anticipated growth.

Considering all options, our analysis shows a new, deep-water terminal next to another at Roberts Bank, B.C. is the most viable option for new terminal space. After four years of scientific research (documented in a 7,000-page environmental impact statement), we have concluded the effects of the project, following the implementation of mitigation, are not expected to significantly affect the environment. It’s now up to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, through an independent review panel, to evaluate our studies and make a recommendation to the federal minister of environment.

The public will have opportunities to comment as the review moves forward over the next two or three years. We also encourage you to engage with us through our online engagement tool, PortTalk.

Cliff Stewart
Vice President, Infrastructure
Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

Container Capacity Improvement Program
Roberts Bank Terminal 2