By Keith Norbury

More than a dozen Canadian companies and organizations will be among the exhibitors at the Breakbulk Americas Conference in Houston, September 30 to October 2.

Making up one of the larger Canadian contingents will be those at the Port Metro Vancouver booth. Doug Mills, Port Metro Vancouver’s Senior Account representative for bulk and breakbulk cargo, said he expected about ten people will staff the booth. They will include representatives of the port’s two major breakbulk terminals – Fraser Surrey Docks, and Western Stevedoring, which operates Lynnterm in North Vancouver – which are part of an ad hoc project cargo working group established last year to promote the Vancouver gateway.

As was the case last year, the focus of PMV’s contingent will be on promoting Vancouver as a gateway for project cargo, especially into Alberta. “We have been doing a lot of work around describing what the capabilities of the gateway are as opposed to what the rumours of the gateway capability were,” Mr. Mills said.

Other Canadian exhibitors at the conference include:

• Montreal-based Atlantic Ro-Ro Carriers and its sibling company, Canada States Africa Line.

• Canada’s Atlantic Gateway Ports, which include Saint John, St. John’s, Halifax, Corner Brook, and Belledune.

• CK Logistics, which is based in St. Laurent, Que.

• CM Labs Simulations, Montreal-based makers of Vortex heavy-equipment simulators.

• Canadian National Railway.

• Fednav International Ltd.

• Highway H20, which represents nearly 50 transportation companies associated with the St. Lawrence Seaway.

• Montreal-based Logistec Inc.

• Quebec City-based Quebec Stevedoring Company Ltd.

• Port of Prince Rupert, on the northern coast of B.C.

• Triton Transport Ltd., a trucking firm based in Chilliwack, B.C.

• Precision Specialized Division Ltd., part of the Woodbridge, Ont.-based Precision Group, an asset-based transportation company.

• Thor Global Enterprises Ltd., a Mississauga-based manufacturer of material handling equipment.

• Tidal Transport & Trading Ltd., a marine services company based in Port Moody, B.C.

• Totran Transportation Services Ltd., a heavy haul specialist based in Calgary.

• Westfreight Systems Inc., a Calgary-based trucking company.

A good chance to connect

“It’s just a good opportunity to connect with the shipping companies, as well as many of the freight forwarders and customers primarily on the import side,” said Dave Lucas, Vice-President of Operations for Western Stevedoring. Mr. Lucas will attend as part of the project cargo working group. Western’s parent company, Seattle-based SSA Marine, also has a booth at the conference.

PMV is putting together a video to showcase the capabilities of the Vancouver gateway, including project cargo work. The video will also describe the parameters for moving those cargoes, Mr. Mills said. In doing, it will re-shout last year’s message that Vancouver is the fastest and least expensive corridor to move project cargo to western Canada from Asia. “And that’ll be all over the place,” Mr. Mills said. A similar message received a “tremendous response” last year, Mr. Mills said, and led to several large proponents of multi-billion dollar projects coming to Vancouver for further discussions. “I would expect we would have some of the same response this year,” Mr. Mills said. He wasn’t at liberty to reveal much more because clients often request confidentiality “just because they’re competing with other interests and don’t want to give away their secrets.”

However, Mr. Mills did say that “a number of big projects” entered through Vancouver to Alberta including pieces for a large cement plant in the Canmore area near Banff.

Greg Kolesniak, Director of Policy for the B.C. Trucking Association, said that “BCTA will be represented indirectly through some of our members that are also attending the conference.”

Ontario trucking firm keeps it fresh

Mr. Mills admitted that PMV will still have to win some people over. That includes at least one Canadian company that is also exhibiting at the show. Ed Bernard of Ontario-based Precision Group described oversize trucking routes out of Vancouver, B.C. as “horrible,” adding that “there is no infrastructure for loads of that size to come out of that port.”

When his company wishes to transport large loads from the Pacific northwest, it typically goes through the Port of Tacoma, Wash. “It’s not the Port of Vancouver itself that is the problem,” Mr. Bernard said. “You can get anything you want into the port but getting it out of there is another problem … because you still have structures to deal with once you get out on the highway.”

Precision Group, which is based in Woodbridge, Ont., has been staffing a booth at the conference for about the last five years, said Mr. Bernard, who is Vice-President of the company’s Precision Project Cargo Division Inc. and Precision Specialized Division Inc. “We like getting work off the ports,” Mr. Bernard said, explaining the conference’s attraction for his company. “We make a lot of contacts from the show.” He said the exhibition has led to a lot of leads for project loads. While he didn’t volunteer any specifics, he did say leads come from all the ports the company serves in North America, such as Hamilton, Tacoma, Halifax, Montreal, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Red Hook, and Oshawa. Mr. Bernard, who will attend the show with three or four colleagues, said the company tries to keep the booth fresh each year with new photos and backdrops.

Show an eye-opener for terminal operator

At Port Metro Vancouver’s booth, meanwhile, will be representatives from Fraser Surrey Docks, Vancouver’s other major breakbulk terminal. Brady Erno, Fraser Surrey’s Manager of Sales and Customer Service, and Mike McLeod, Senior Manager of Sales and Marketing at Fraser Surrey, will both be at the show. Last year was the first time Fraser Surrey had a booth presence, which Mr. Erno described as “a real eye opener” that enabled show attendees to learn about the terminal’s interest in project cargo and its potential for the Vancouver gateway. “We want to try to change the perception that the bigger pieces can’t come through the province,” Mr. Erno said. Since the last show, the project cargo working group has made some progress in gathering precise information about the dimensions of loads that B.C. highways can accommodate as well details about the complex permitting requirements, he said. “For us, the biggest thing is setting out those numbers, so there is a clear picture to shippers to identify what those requirements are, and who they need to contact, and to make those moves happen,” Mr. Erno said.

B.C. trucking firm exhibits for first time

Triton Transport Ltd. reps have participated at the show as attendees for about five years, but this will be first time it will have a booth. Jared Bragg, Triton’s Director of Sales, said he expects to have three or four staff at the booth, which will feature video displays and a large banner to promote the company. “We’ve actually got business out of the show without exhibiting,” Mr. Bragg said. That’s unlike his experience at other large trade shows, like ConExpo-Con/Agg in Las Vegas, or an LNG show in Vancouver earlier this year. “It was a great show but the problem with it was there was really no one there who was actually in the business of hiring the transport companies,” Mr. Bragg said.

As he spoke, Triton was poised to relocate its head office to a brand-new, $9 million, purpose-built eight-acre facility in Chilliwack from Langley. The company also has a well-establish five-acre satellite facility in Edmonton, which has more of a local focus on serving northern Alberta. “But this company’s primary focus and history is as an over-the-highway heavy haul company,” Mr. Bragg said. “Sometimes that just means large loads from southern B.C. to northern B.C. But that might mean compressors to North Dakota, (or) breakbulk out of Houston Texas.” Mr. Bragg’s father, Joe, and Murray Scandag founded Triton in 1998.

As far as project cargo is concerned, Triton’s work is usually hauling energy or transformer equipment, such as generators, turbines, and pre-fabricated vessels, Mr. Bragg said. The company also handles ro-ro cargo, such as mining and forest equipment like cranes, excavators and bulldozers – through Washington state ports. “The breakbulk conferences are full of other transportation companies, forwarding agents, shipping lines, people who day in and day out are hiring transportation companies,” Mr. Bragg said.

Prince Rupert opportunities promoted

Ron Brinkhurst, President of Tidal Transport & Trading Ltd., has been attending the conference each year since the company was founded over 15 years ago. Last year, for the first time, the company had a booth at the conference. “Last year was our first attempt to display that there was capacity in Prince Rupert, and I think that we achieved that objective,” Mr. Brinkhurst said. “There were a lot of freight forwarding companies, engineering firms, people that we traditionally don’t do business with, or hadn’t done business with in the past,” he said. “So having the ability to prove to them that there is a breakbulk opportunity, a breakbulk solution potential, in Prince Rupert – I think that caught a lot of people off guard.” The timing was also right. Tidal had just assumed full ownership of its 54-acre Prince Rupert facility in April 2013. “We had a large rendering of our facility displayed and then we had a video loop,” Mr. Brinkurst said about the company’s booth at last year’s show.

Mr. Brinkhurst called Breakbulk Americas “a wonderful opportunity” for those in the transportation world because it brings together shippers, receivers, shipowners, agents, freight forwarders, engineering firms and others with an interest in the industry. “It’s the Number One event for our company for that type of show or convention,” Mr. Brinkhurst said.

Maker of conveyors finds an audience

Thor Global Enterprises Ltd., which is based in Mississauga, has a booth at the conference even though the machines it manufacturers aren’t used to handle breakbulk. Thor, founded in 1969, builds material-handling equipment, such as portable conveyors, for loading bulk commodities such as coal, aggregate, sulphur, and grain. Purchasers of that equipment, such as shipping companies and terminal operators, are among the attendees at the conference. “We’ve had success there in the past,” said Vice-President Torben Johannsen, whose father founded the company and whose grandfather was also in the same business in Denmark dating back to the 1940s. “It’s in that sense we have to say that it’s done all right for us.”

Terminal operators are looking to diversify, he said, and not rely on moving containers, he said. “They have to be profitable and they have to try and think outside the box,” Mr. Johannsen said. “So they’re now getting themselves involved to the point where they have to be material handlers themselves.”

Carrier promotes African trade lines

Canada States Africa Lines, which is based in Montreal, will share a booth at the conference with its older and larger sibling company, Atlantic Ro Ro Carriers, said Eugene Nutovych, a line manager with CSAL. CSAL has had a booth presence at the show since its founding six years ago. “It’s the place to be because our customers expect us to be there,” said Mr. Nutovych, who has attended the conference the last nine or ten years.

The two companies will have about ten employees at the shared booth. CASL has regular service between North American ports and ports in South Africa and Namibia. On the export side, its major cargoes include machinery, while on the import side, it brings in largely steel products and bulk material. “We only have two vessels servicing this trade lane right now. We have multipurpose vessels and they’re capable of both breakbulk and containers,” Mr. Nutovych said. About 80 per cent of CSAL’s business is breakbulk and project cargoes. “We try to focus on something that doesn’t really fit into a container,” Mr. Nutovych said. “That’s our bread and butter.”

Atlantic Ro Ro has half a dozen ships. Despite its historical name, the company also handles quite a bit of project cargo, breakbulk, bulk, and containers.

Stevedoring firm seeks new contacts

Montreal-headquartered Logistec Stevedoring Inc. has always been supportive of the show, said Frank Vannelli, the company’s Senior Vice-President of Commercial and Business Development. He has attended the conference for about the last eight years, but won’t be there this year because it conflicts with the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association’s annual conference in Miami.

However, Logistec will dispatch “a good team” of about four employees to Houston. They will include Shawn McMahon, who was recently named Logistec’s General Manager for all project business and general cargoes in Canada. “What we do every year is obviously reacquaint ourselves with possibly new contacts through the network system while we’re down there,” Mr. Vannelli said. “They keep growing and getting bigger and bigger, so there are more and more people attending.”

He noted that the breakbulk conference alternates between New Orleans and Houston, calling the former a “fun destination” but the latter being a better venue for connecting with Logistec customers in the pipeline and oil and gas industries.

“I think Houston is more of a venue of pitching who you are to the entire network, saying to the major carriers, here’s who we are as a company, here are all the different ports we can go to; let’s get back home and start looking at where we can do business together,” Mr. Vannelli said.

Atlantic ports exhibit together

Representatives of Port of Halifax will attend the conference as part of Canada’s Atlantic Gateway booth, said Patrick Bohan, Director of Supply Chain Solutions with Halifax Port Authority. Joining him will be Ches Carter, the Port’s Director of Marine Operations, Mr. Bohan said by email. They will be there to promote the $65 milltion expansion of the port’s Richmond Terminals/Pier, a project that is expected to be completed in September, just in time for the conference. “We will also be promoting Port of Sheet Harbour in addition to our breakbulk capabilities in the port of Halifax,” Mr. Bohan said. In 2012, Halifax signed a 10-year lease to manage Sheet Harbour, which is 115 kilometres northwest of Halifax.

Simulator maker provides immersive experience

Montreal-based CM Labs Simulations will showcase two of its computerized video-display training simulators for heavy equipment at Breakbulk Americas, said an email from David Clark, a marketing communications specialist with the company.

The “fully immersive” Vortex VxMaster|5 features “real machine controls and joysticks, surround visual and audio systems, lifelike worksites and exercises, and a three-degree-of-freedom motion platform,” Mr. Clark said. The other machine is the company’s table-top simulator, the Vx Trainer, which was recently introduced to provide entry-level training.

“Visitors to our booth can test-drive the simulators and run a virtual HMC (harbour mobile crane) as well as a pedestal crane, including realistic port environments and lifting exercises,” Mr. Clark said.