Increased market demand in Asia-Pacific trade continues to underlay the importance of securing sustained investment in, and timely delivery of, trade-enabling infrastructure for the Port of Vancouver. Gateway infrastructure, such as road and rail projects, and marine terminal projects have benefitted from an ongoing successful, collaborative strategy that has attracted billions of dollars in public and private investment during the past several years.

The successful delivery of numerous trade corridor projects, such as the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor series of nine road and rail projects, including eight overpasses, has demonstrated the port community’s ability to deliver capacity to support goods and people movement throughout the region. This continues to provide the impetus for private investment in various terminal enhancements, expansions and new-builds across the port’s business sectors.

A significant number of the approximately 40 projects identified in the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum’s ‘Greater Vancouver Gateway 2030 Strategy’ have received funding from the first and second round of Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led applications to the federal government’s National Trade Corridor Fund. In total, the Government of Canada has committed $325 million to several infrastructure projects and studies.

The port authority-led projects that received more than $200 million in funding through the NTCF in 2018 are making progress. The projects include a number of key road and rail improvements throughout the region: Burrard Inlet Road and Rail Improvements, Burnaby Rail Corridor Improvements, Pitt River Road and Colony Farm Road Overpasses, Westwood Street Rail Crossings and the Pitt Meadows Road and Rail Improvements Project. Since receiving funding, the projects have advanced to various stages. Most notably, two highly anticipated rail crossings as part of the Pitt Meadows Road and Rail Improvements Project moved closer to construction in July, when the port authority and the City of Pitt Meadows signed a Memorandum of Understanding for working together on delivering the project. The first phase of public engagement to inform design and construction is expected this fall.

The project will separate road traffic from trains at two key crossings—Harris Road and Kennedy Road—helping improve public safety, emergency response times, and commute times, while reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions related to idling vehicles. These upgrades will help remove bottlenecks for trains, improving the flow of goods and helping accommodate growing trade. The project has a total anticipated cost of $141.1 million.

Following the successful round of project submissions, the port authority submitted another five applications to the federal government’s call for additional applications to the National Trade Corridors Fund in 2019. In July of this year, the port authority received commitments for another $103 million in funding for three infrastructure projects and two studies, including:

  • $42.7 million toward the Annacis Auto Terminal Optimization Project, which will expand terminal capacity to handle new trade opportunities and expand rail yard capacity to improve the efficiency of railcar movements
  • $12.2 million to improve road and rail traffic operations and develop new rail-serviced bulk export marine terminals within the Fraser Surrey Port Lands
  • $39.4 million to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion in the Portside/Blundell corridor in Richmond
  • $1.6 million to explore ways to handle increased trade volumes by evaluating the viability of short sea shipping in Greater Vancouver (study)
  • $6 million to develop a real-time dashboard for the Ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert to measure end-to-end performance of the supply chain for all cargo moving through both ports (study)

Next steps include finalizing formal contribution agreements amongst partners and commencing important technical work.

The comprehensive and collaborative approach to sustained investment in trade-enabling gateway infrastructure, such as road and road improvements, has encouraged investment in terminal infrastructure, ranging from existing terminal improvements and expansions to new builds. These investments, which are needed to provide capacity for an expected increase in growth over the long-term, are being made in a variety of sectors.

In the container sector, major ongoing initiatives continue to advance, as the port authority is working to create new terminal capacity to address long-term demand. The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project, a 2.4 million TEU container terminal proposed by the port authority, is currently undergoing a federal environmental review. The public hearing phase of the environmental assessment process completed in August. Pending approval from the federal government, construction is expected to be complete by the late-2020s.

Additionally, construction began on the Centerm Expansion Project and South Shore Access Project earlier this year. Centerm is an existing container terminal at the Port of Vancouver operated by DP World Vancouver on the south shore of Burrard Inlet. The proposed projects would increase peak handling capacity by approximately two-thirds, from 900,000 TEUs to 1.5 million TEUs through a reconfiguration and expansion to the container terminal, as well as supporting road and rail improvements. Construction began in July 2019 and is expected to be complete by early 2022.

In partnership with Tsawwassen First Nation and the Canada Border Services Agency, the Tsawwassen Container Examination Facility is a new facility for the inspection of shipping containers imported through container facilities at Roberts Bank and the Fraser River. This additional facility will drive both security and efficiency while meeting anticipated growth. The facility began operations in February 2019.

“Canada’s international trade is growing. The port authority and all those who make up the Port of Vancouver are taking steps to ensure the port will be ready to handle the anticipated increase in cargo through Canada’s west coast,” said Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the federal agency responsible for overseeing the Port of Vancouver. “This includes partnering with terminal operators to expand and improve operations in preparation to meet the expected increased demand.”

Global demand for Canadian agricultural products continues to foster significant private investment into bulk terminal facilities throughout the gateway, including the creation of G3 terminal, a new $550-million bulk grain terminal. The first new grain terminal at the Port of Vancouver since the 1960s, G3 terminal will have an estimated annual throughput of eight million metric tonnes (MMT) and completion is expected by 2020.

Fraser Grain Terminal Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Parrish and Heimbecker Ltd., received a project permit from the port authority to construct a grain export facility adjacent to Fraser Surrey Docks. The new facility, with an annual terminal capacity of up to four MMT, will be used to ship bulk grain products including wheat, barley, oil seeds, pulses and other specialty crops. Work commenced at the project site in December 2018 and the target for completion is December 2020.

Alliance Grain Terminal recently completed extensive ship loader and dock conveyor upgrade to its existing site. Speed of loading, increased capacity, dust control and overall functionality were key priorities for the extensive remodel. The terminal also has an integrated dust suppression system, ensuring clean operations from receiving to shipping. Representing millions of dollars in investments, these upgrades will allow for improved efficiencies for AGT.

Neptune Bulk Terminals (Canada) Ltd.’s $330 million in upgrades to its North Vancouver terminal facilities will increase annual throughput and improve coal handling operations, among other improvements. The equipment upgrades include a new coal train dumper building, a series of new conveyors, a replaced stacker-reclaimer and a replaced shiploader. Improvements also include upgrades to its water dust suppression system. The work is expected to complete by 2021.

Construction pertaining to Fibreco Export Inc.’s Fibreco Terminal Enhancement Project is currently underway. The project includes enhancements to the terminal’s current wood pellet operations, the addition of new grain export operations and removal of the woodchip exporting infrastructure. Works also include marine enhancements such as berth improvements, a new shiploader, dredging and demolition. The majority of the proposed works are expected to be complete in 2019.

Richardson International has made significant investments over the past several years to increase productivity and efficiencies at its North Vancouver grain export facility. Major works include the doubling of physical storage capacity to 174,000 metric tonnes with the addition of an 80,000 metric tonne automated annex. In 2012, a second unload pit was added and two new indexers track modifications were completed to bring the unload capacity from 150 to 300 railcars per day. Efficiencies were gained through various means, including increased grain cleaning productivity with the installation of high throughput cleaners, along with additional power and control upgrades to the facility and automation to annexes. Most recently, Richardson implemented a continuous operations schedule for 24×7 unloading and shipping and grain processing coverage.

To accommodate the record growth in cruise activity at the Port of Vancouver, the port authority has invested approximately $25 million since 2014 on a number of initiatives to improve the passenger flow and overall guest experience at the Canada Place cruise terminal. These include an enhanced wayfinding and signage program, the reconfiguration of terminal space to expand passenger processing areas, a redesigned ground transportation area that enables better vehicle and pedestrian flows and free Wi-Fi. In addition, upgrades to gangways, camels and fendering systems for every berth will be completed by 2020.  Vancouver was recently named a Top-Rated U.S. & Canada Cruise Destination in Cruise Critic’s 2019 Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards.  Cruise Critic is the world’s largest online cruise resource.

In the auto-sector, $42.7 million in federal funding was recently committed to the Annacis Auto Terminal Optimization Project, which will expand the capacity of the Annacis Auto Terminal to handle new trade opportunities and expanding rail yard capacity to improve the efficiency of railcar movements.

As Canada’s most diversified port, the Port of Vancouver continues to attract investment, driven by consistent growth in demand for Canadian exports and imports from Asia, as well as sustained investment by government and the port authority in trade-enabling road and rail infrastructure. The resulting new and proposed facilities and upgrades underscore growing confidence in the Vancouver gateway as a critical contributor to the Canadian economy, now and in the years ahead.

The Port of Vancouver is leading the way in “Digital Infrastructure”

The port authority works with supply chain partners and port stakeholders to build future capacity through increased efficiency. The port authority’s emphasis on data visibility and transparency, as well as efficiency improvements aimed at optimizing land and marine operations across the supply chain, help improve overall supply chain performance.

Collecting, analyzing and reporting on data allows the port authority to assess how well the gateway is operating.  Early warning indicators derived from monitoring can help initiate discussions and support major capital decisions and future planning. Leveraging supply chain data can help optimize the Vancouver-area gateway’s existing infrastructure. Customers and users also benefit from several real-time monitoring programs and digital platforms to help keep them informed and enable them to anticipate, plan and respond effectively to operational matters.

Building on the success of its Supply Chain Visibility Project, a joint effort with Transport Canada launched in 2015, the port authority was recently awarded $6 million from the federal government to continue its work in this area.

The project involves the development of a series of operational planning and optimization tools for industry stakeholders designed to aid in improving the fluidity, resiliency, and better use of supply chain capacity across western Canada. A near-real-time dashboard will be developed to measure end-to-end supply chain performance for all cargo moving through the Port of Vancouver and Port of Prince Rupert. This will make it possible to have a closer look at cargo loading at origin to loading date at the terminal and identify operational constraints and capacity bottlenecks based on live system data and simulations.  It will also help improve import and export cargo forecasting predictive analytics to estimate volumes, identify possible capacity issues and support long-term operational planning, among other benefits.