Open letter responding to International Longshore & Warehouse Union of Canada criticisms of Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project

February 10, 2023

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has recently become aware of false statements being communicated about the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project, specifically pertaining to labour and terminal automation. This includes information shared in a February 9 letter to the prime minister and cabinet from Rob Ashton, president, ILWU Canada and Pat Bolen, vice president, ILWU Canada. 

Roberts Bank Terminal 2, a proposed new marine container terminal in Delta B.C. led by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, is a critical infrastructure project that has been undergoing a federal environmental assessment since 2013. If approved, the project would increase container terminal capacity by more than 30% on Canada’s west coast, support competition in the gateway, and strengthen reliable access to global markets.  

The terminal, which would be located in deep water far from sensitive habitat closer to shore, would be an integral component of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy to expand trade, investment and supply chain resilience, as the region grows to account for 50% of the world GDP by 2040. With $1 in every $3 of Canada’s trade in goods outside of North America moving through the Port of Vancouver, Roberts Bank Terminal 2 is Canada’s opportunity to provide timely capacity for our country’s rapidly growing trade needs before west coast terminals run out of space to handle container traffic by the mid-to-late 2020s. 

Contrary to the assertions regarding threats to labour, the project would generate tens of thousands of well-paying supply chain jobs. The construction of the project would create more than 18,000 jobs over six years and $2.3 billion in GDP, as well as more than 17,300 jobs per year (1,500 on-terminal and 15,800 off-terminal) and $3 billion in GDP annually once the terminal is operational. 

The project will also bring meaningful benefits to Indigenous groups and communities, support economic reconciliation and create economic growth. In fact, once the terminal is operating at full capacity, the total value of Canada’s trade moving through Roberts Bank Terminal 2 will be roughly $100 billion each year. 

If the project is not approved by the federal government, the ongoing economic benefits will be captured almost entirely by the United States. In addition, capacity constraints will lead to job-killing inflationary pressure conservatively estimated at $500 million per year. 

With regard to the suggestion that the port authority has confirmed a level of automation that would result in job losses, I would like to clarify that the port authority does not operate terminals. While work the port authority has completed to date has planned for a semi-automated terminal—similar to other newer container terminals around the world—the future terminal operator will determine the final configuration and operating concept for the terminal, taking into account the latest environmental and operational innovations, as well as the conditions and commitments set out in the environmental assessment process. 

A future terminal operator will be selected as part of a two-phased procurement approach, which involves first selecting a contractor through a design-build or design-build-finance procurement to build the new landmass and marine structures needed for the project, and then, prior to the anticipated start of terminal operations, selecting the terminal operator to build, equip, and operate the new terminal through a terminal concession procurement.  

Finally, it’s important to highlight that all Canada Port Authorities are required to be self-funded and competitive; they earn revenues by leasing port lands and waters, and through fees to use the port. The cost of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project will be recuperated by the proceeds of the long-term lease of the terminal operator and terminal user fees. This is how the existing Deltaport terminal was built, as well as the current expansion at Centerm.  

As a federal agency, the port authority has a public interest mandate to enable Canada’s trade objectives, while considering the environment and local communities—something the organization takes very seriously. 

As the clock runs down on the federal environmental assessment, we encourage government to focus on the extensive information that has been shared publicly on the impact assessment record over the last decade. 

Duncan Wilson 

Vice President, Environment and External Affairs  

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority