By Keith Norbury
Stewart World Port has completed its breakbulk dock on the northern B.C. coast and is ready to tell the world it is ready to handle project cargo. “We’re ready for vessels and we’re negotiating on some cargo as we speak,” the Port’s CEO, Ted Pickell, said in a recent interview.
To promote its capabilities, the port is among about two dozen Canadian exhibitors at the Breakbulk Americas conference in Houston, Oct. 1-3. The port had a booth at last year’s conference. However, Mr. Pickell said he expects it to receive much more attention this year, now that the breakbulk terminal is completed.
A few years ago when he informed potential shippers that he was building the terminal, “they just kind of yawned and their eyes glazed over,” Mr. Pickell said. “Now that it’s built, we’re getting lots of interest,” he added. So far, Mr. Pickell has spent $70 million on the first two phases of the port, the second phase being the breakbulk terminal. A third phase costing $50 million will include a ship loader and sheds for storing concentrate.
The breakbulk terminal, at the head of the Portland Canal on the B.C. border with the Alaska Panhandle, boasts a dock that is 630 feet long and 60 feet wide with a depth at its outer rim of 141 feet at low tide. It is capable of unloading Panamax and Handymax vessels, Mr. Pickell said.
Many Canadian firms exhibiting
Other Canadian exhibitors at the conference include the following:
• Montreal-based Atlantic Ro-Ro Carriers and its sibling company, Canada States Africa Line.
• Canadian National Railway.
• Highway H20, which represents nearly 50 transportation companies associated with the St. Lawrence Seaway.
• Montreal-based Logistec Inc.
• Montreal-based Fednav International Ltd.
• Quebec City-based Quebec Stevedoring Company Ltd.
• Port of Prince Rupert, B.C.
• Tidal Transport & Trading Ltd., a marine services company based in Port Moody, B.C.
• Precision Specialized Division Ltd., part of the Woodbridge, Ont.-based Precision Group, an asset-based transportation company.
• McKeil Marine Ltd., which is headquartered in Hamilton, Ontario.
• CM Labs Simulations, which makes Vortex equipment
• Port Metro Vancouver, B.C.
• Port of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Prince Rupert ro-ro ramp also ready
Prince Rupert also has a new breakbulk facility that Marketing and Communications officer Kris Schumacher said he expects will be promoted at the port’s booth. “We’re seeing some decent movements through it, but obviously well below its capacity for moving project cargo through that terminal,” Mr. Schumacher said. “So we’re definitely interested in drumming up more business for a Canadian solution to that.”
The $10 million project on Ridley Island, which involved retrofitting a roll-on roll-off ramp that hadn’t been used in years, went into commission in early 2015. “So far it’s proving to be pretty successful,” Mr. Schumacher said. By the end of this July, the facility had moved 1,885 tonnes of project cargo, he said.
The difference between the Prince Rupert and Stewart facilities is that the former is not a dedicated breakbulk facility in which ships unload at a dock, whereas the Stewart facility is. Mr. Schumacher said that Prince Rupert has additional lands that might make a good site for a breakbulk terminal but he cautioned that no such plans are in the works or even being investigated at present. CT Terminals, a joint venture between Coast Tsimshian Enterprises Corporation and Tidal Coast Terminals, is operating the facility. Coast Tsimshian, which is owned by two first Nations in northern B.C., has a 51 per cent stake in CT Terminals with Tidal owning the balance, said Tidal Transport President Ron Brinkhurst.
“I would consider it a rather large advancement of the breakbulk infrastructure in Prince Rupert,” Mr. Brinkhurst said. “It’s significant, perhaps the most important investment so far made, especially as it accesses or allows access to the rail system.”
The new ro-ro facility has received a few inbound shipments of breakbulk cargo — one shipment each in April, June, July and August, with nothing else expected until November. “So, slow to grow, but we’re hoping that we can attract some cargoes, various inbound cargoes as well as export cargoes through the port,” said Mr. Brinkhurst, whose company will be exhibiting at Breakbulk Americas.
Tidal will also be promoting its own barge terminal at Butze Bay on Prince Rupert’s Kaien Island. That terminal can handle breakbulk, such as steel pipe, that is difficult to move over a ro-ro ramp.
While Tidal exhibited at Breakbulk Americas for the first time last year, Mr. Brinkhurst has been attending for about 15 years. He said the conference offers “a whole host of benefits for us,” including connecting with existing customers and potential new customers as well as “identifying new trends in the industry.”
The Ridley Island breakbulk facility enables ships at anchor to unload project cargo on a barge that then discharges the cargo onto the ro-ro ramp, Mr. Schumacher explained. From there the cargo can be taken off Ridley Island by truck or to a nearby Canadian National Railway line next to the site of the future Canpotex potash terminal.
Railway returns for encore
Canadian National will be attending Breakbulk Americas for the second time, with three people from the railway’s supply chain solutions group as well as support from sales and marketing people, said an email from Mark Hallman, CN’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs. “From past experience, the conference gives CN the ability to network with customers and transportation partners – ports, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, and other logistics companies,” Mr. Hallman said.
The railway offers many services related to project cargo, such as dimensional shipping, transloads, warehousing, and brokerage services, he said. “Shipping of dimensional cargo is a small but important segment of CN’s business portfolio, but is more significant when other project cargoes are included such as pipe, metal, machinery, etc.,” Mr. Hallman said.
CN also handles transformers, vessels, wind turbine components, reactors, modules and other dimensional cargoes as part of its dimensional services group. “CN is still handling some of these shipments to the oil sands; however, volumes have declined this year due to the reduction in oil industry related capital investment in Western Canada,” Mr. Hallman said.
It’s a must-do for Thunder Bay
Tim Heney, CEO of Thunder Bay Port Authority, said he will be attending Breakbulk Americas as part of the Highway H20 delegation. “The main competition for the Seaway is Houston,” Mr. Heney said. “So it’s important that they know about the options. This year we’re having a 35 per cent off sale with the exchange rate. That’s something the Americans don’t always know about.”
Because Thunder Bay competes with U.S. ports like Superior and Duluth, attending the conference is a must-do, he said.
Another reason to attend is that “the Europeans are there in force,” Mr. Heney said. For example, the Spliethoff shipping line is sharing a booth with its subsidiary Big Lift. “In Houston you tend to find out the projects that are happening in the coming year,” Mr. Heney said.
Harbour crane simulation offered
Montreal-based CM Labs Simulations plans to bring one of its fully immersive Vortex training simulators to the conference. The simulator, which will have either a seven- or eight-screen display and be equipped with a motion platform, will be configured to emulate a mobile harbour crane and a ship-to-shore crane. “Those will all be available for people to test drive and see how it feels,” said David Clark, a marketing communications specialist with CM Labs. “The trade shows in particular are an important venue of marketing and sales for us because ultimately what attracts people to simulations is the quotient of realism that they offer,” Mr. Clark added. “And that’s a hard thing to convey over the Internet.”
Fednav promotes new box-hold fleet
Montreal-based Fednav will be sharing a booth at Breakbulk Americas with its subsidiary Federal Marine Terminals, which this year marked its 50th anniversary. About half a dozen employees of the two companies will staff the booth. “We’ve been there I believe for 16, 17 years,” said Suzanne Beleau-Myrand, Fednav’s Director of Marketing. “There’s no other conference like it where you really get to see port authorities, stevedores, carriers, suppliers, shippers.”
At the show, Fednav will be promoting its new class of 34,000-tonne box-hold vessels, the first of four which went into service this year. Two more will be delivered this fall, six more in 2016, and four others in 2018. They’re designed to bring breakbulk and project cargo on Fednav’s FALLine service from Europe to the Seaway and Great Lakes. Often they’ll return to Europe with grain from Thunder Bay.
Halifax touts Pier 9 prospects
Port of Halifax, which at last year’s conference exhibited as part of a Canada’s Atlantic Gateways booth, will have its own stand-alone booth this time around. However, a provincial agency, Nova Scotia Business Inc., is collaborating on the booth, said Patrick Bohan, the Port Authority’s Director of Supply Chain Solutions. “It’s a good conference because many of our key breakbulk stakeholders like CN and Logistec Stevedoring and Empire Stevedoring are also at this show, as well as many of our carriers in that space,” Mr. Bohan said.
The Port Authority manages the provincially owned Port of Sheet Harbour, which Halifax will be touting at the conference for its breakbulk capabilities. Halifax will also promote the new Pier 9 at the port’s Richmond Terminals. That project was completed last year at a cost of about $65 million, which was around 10 per cent under budget, Mr. Bohan pointed out. “We’ll be highlighting that because we’ve been telling people about that terminal at past shows,” Mr. Bohan said. “And now we have some good photos of various operations that have taken place there in the meantime.”
The new pier has already handled about half a dozen project cargo shipments, including for Irving Shipbuilding Inc.’s nearby Halifax Shipyard, which won the lion’s share of $35 billion in National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy contracts. Halifax has also been handling cargoes for Shell Oil’s offshore drilling projects in the region, and expects to benefit handsomely from the many billions of dollars of Atlantic megaprojects that are ongoing or planned.