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.
We are leading the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project, a future marine container terminal in Delta, B.C., to deliver this critically needed capacity for Canada while adding resiliency for future surges or supply-chain disruptions. Following a rigorous federal environmental assessment process that started in 2013, the Government of Canada approved the project in April 2023. We continue to work towards obtaining other applicable approvals and permits to advance the project.