By R. Bruce Striegler

In August 2015, Port of Prince Rupert’s Fairview Container Terminal welcomed a new owner and management team. The dedicated intermodal facility, purpose built to provide a high- speed gateway for transpacific container trade, had been sold a few months earlier to DP World Ltd., the Dubai government-owned ports operator. The original design capacity of the terminal was 500,000 TEUs. However, with many operational improvements, and with an efficient workforce, throughput at the terminal increased in 2015 to 776,412 TEUs.

Maksim Mihic, DP World (Canada) Inc.’s General Manager, tells us that these kind of increases are likely to become the new normal for the terminal. “Terminal operation is based on fast batch processing of rail bound containers, not unlike practices found at larger ports.” He adds that with the changes, the current terminal capacity is 850,000 TEUs.

The Fairview Terminal, opened in 2007 was the first dedicated intermodal (ship to rail) container terminal in North America. Originally operated by Maher Terminals Holding Corporation of New Jersey, Fairview has seen a nearly-continuous expansion in the intervening years. Traffic through the terminal has grown at a faster pace than any other container terminal in North America. As DP World takes over, a Phase Two development is underway. Mr. Mihic explains that currently the terminal has a single 360-metre berth. “The Phase 2 North expansion is adding another 440 metres of berthing space, so we’ll have a two-berth facility with a 17 metre draft, allowing us to accommodate the largest vessels in the market.” He notes that, “With a little optimization of the yard later on, and by moving a few buildings around, we can get to 1.8 million TEUs as the design capacity and 1.6 million TEUs as the operational capacity.”

With new systems and terminal upgrade, Fairview set for future growth

Modification of the current rail yard, from 12,000 feet of on dock rail to 18,000 feet and the addition of rubber-tired gantries in the rail yard, along with installation of three additional dock cranes, will enable an increase in throughput capacity to 1.35 million TEUs per year. “We’re about 70 per cent complete and we’re going live on July 31, 2017”. At the same time, the terminal will implement a Navis N4 terminal operating system, a technology platform that optimizes efficiency and helps to power the intelligent movement of goods through the supply chain.

Mr. Mihic says that as the new systems and docks come online, DP World is planning on introducing reefer services at Prince Rupert, and has conceptual drawings already completed for a possible further expansion, depending on market conditions. DP World also operates the Centerm Terminal at the port of Vancouver as well as the Duke Point terminal at the port of Nanaimo, where they run a short-sea shipping venture to Vancouver. Asked if the company plans any short-sea operations from Prince Rupert, Mr. Mihic replied that they are already doing some work in that area. “We are using CN’s Aquatrain, and are transporting about 50 TEUs a week to Alaska. Once we’ve opened the new expansion, we’ll look closer into the trade, and whether we do it alone or partner with another for the services, there’s a great opportunity with the idea.”

When asked what makes the Fairview Terminal such an exceptional operation, Mr. Mihic says, “I think the outstanding thing about the terminal is the people.” He tells us that Fairview currently employs about 275 to 300 FTE’s, adding that on the union side, Fairview has up to 600 people, that along with casual hires, accounts for nearly 80 percent of the hours utilized through the union hall. “Down the road when we put in the second phase there will be probably another 250.” Mr. Mihic notes that in spite of all the energy projects being touted in the region, DP World’s Fairview Terminal remains the largest employer in town.