Q: New environmental standards were recently introduced through the Truck Licensing System. How do these address sustainability concerns?

Our Truck Licensing System is built on the premise that having the right number of trucks to meet demand ensures that our port is able to provide stable, reliable services. While the overall program aims to raise the productivity and performance in the trucking sector, we recently updated the environmental standards to help lower the impact of port operations on our surrounding communities. Our definition of sustainability is about balance and the updated environmental standards work to improve air quality in the metro Vancouver area by reducing truck emissions.

Q: How has technology informed operational practices in port operations?

The foundation of the Truck Licensing System is the GPS system for port-licensed trucks that was put in place some years ago. It provides the industry with precise information about what routes trucks are travelling, congestion points, and in particular, areas where the port authority can help to implement operating solutions to keep goods flowing smoothly. By creating a more complete understanding of how goods transit to and from our port, we can use that information to stimulate better conversations between industry participants to support investments in infrastructure.

The other piece facilitated through the use of technology is optimizing the movement of containers. We’re trying to do this through our Common Data Interface program. The first phase, which is already operational, captures truck wait-time performance at our terminals. Wait times at the Port of Vancouver terminals are down to an average of about 39 minutes.

We can also look at technology improvements to optimize container movements even further by matching up an arriving container truck with a container needing to leave the terminal. With many independent customers, shipping lines and multiple shippers coordinating container movements, there are often one-way truck movements. An enhanced reservation management system would reduce the number of truck trips and emissions, benefitting the environment and surrounding communities. That’s the second phase of our Common Data Interface project and it should be active in 2018.

Q: Are any other technology programs planned?

In partnership with the rail lines and with the support of Transport Canada, our rail visibility pilot project is now underway. Through port authority-led programs, we have gathered valuable information on marine and truck movements in our gateway. But 70 to 80 per cent of what we do in the gateway is rail dependent, so creating a window into rail movements related to the port will be useful on a day-to-day operational level as well as from a strategic planning perspective. This rail visibility pilot project will directly impact and inform the flow of cargo.

Q: In the cruise sector, Vancouver is increasingly used as a home port for Alaskan cruises. Will this trend continue?

As is happening in other parts of the marine industry, we’re seeing increases in the size of vessels. The popularity and safety of cruising in Canada and Alaska is part of this, and so I think it means that this itinerary will continue to be a solid part of the cruise industry’s global business. We hope to continue to grow this business by making timely investment in our port’s physical facilities.

Vancouver has always been highly regarded from the passenger experience perspective, but Canada Place has its own iconic status within the travel business and we want to make sure this facility continues to play a big part of that. So far, the product and the commitment between the tourism industry, our cruise operator and the port have made it work very well. If the growth continues, we’ll have to look at other facility modifications and operating practices to make sure that we have the capacity to continue to deliver award-winning service.