The Port of Vancouver’s significant value to the national economy necessitates a steady flow of investment to ensure the fluidity and reliability of the Vancouver-area gateway. The port handles more than one of every four dollars in Canadian trade beyond North America, and port activity generates almost four million dollars in taxes per day across the country for all levels of government.

The collaborative model guiding the port authority’s approach to securing funding for key infrastructure improvements has proven to support trade activities through the port. Between 2009 and 2025, more than $17 billion will be invested in transportation infrastructure in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, more than double that of the recent Panama Canal upgrades. Working closely with industry and government, approximately $7.5 billion has already been invested to-date in port infrastructure to support port activities, a strong signal indicating confidence in the continued growth in Canadian trade.

The Gateway Infrastructure Program was developed in 2008 to invest in infrastructure projects aimed at enhancing efficiency and safety of rail operations, increasing the port’s ability to accommodate growth in trade-related traffic and minimizing the impact of port operations on nearby communities. Partners included Transport Canada, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, TransLink and the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council. The total investment was $717 million, of which $167 million was pre-funded by the port authority. Completed in March 2015, major accomplishments included the South Shore Corridor project, eight Roberts Bank Rail Corridor overpasses, and the award-winning Low Level Road realignment project.

Ongoing collaboration

Integrating funding across so many stakeholders and interests is complex and challenging. Building on the success of the established approach, the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum (GTCF) was created in 2014 to identify and advance priority infrastructure projects that will remove bottlenecks preventing the efficient movement of goods and people in the Vancouver area. The GTCF consists of the port authority, Transport Canada, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infra­structure, TransLink and the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council.

The GTCF has identified approximately 40 priority projects throughout the Vancouver area, which have been assembled into a program called ‘Greater Vancouver Gateway 2030’. These projects, while located in Vancouver and the surrounding areas, are nationally-significant. These proposed projects are consistent with the goals of the Federal Government’s National Trade Corridors Fund, which include eliminating bottlenecks, increasing network capacity, reducing emissions and combatting climate change.

Demand in container and bulk sectors drive investment

The port authority continues to work with industry partners on ongoing opportunities to provide adequate container terminal capacity to meet future trade needs. Recent independent forecasts, as well as mid-year statistics released by the port, suggest strong growth in the container sector will lead to a doubling of demand by the mid-2030s.

The Deltaport Terminal, Road, and Rail Improvement Project is a series of upgrades to existing transportation infrastructure serving Deltaport terminal. The improvements, allowing for an increase in container capacity by 600,000 TEUs, is a partnership between Deltaport operator Global Container Terminals (GCT) Canada, the port authority, and the federal and provincial governments. With the reconfiguration of the intermodal yard nearing completion, the project is expected to be fully complete in 2018.

Following the closure of Ballentyne Pier to cruise ships in 2014, the opportunity to increase container handling capacity at Centerm container terminal was identified. DP World and the port authority propose to increase Centerm’s physical footprint by 15 per cent and make improvements to existing infrastructure, in order to increase container handling by two-thirds, from 900,000 to 1.5 million TEUs. If approved, the improvements could begin as early as late-2017.

Additionally, the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project is a new three-berth container terminal to be located next to the existing Westshore and Deltaport terminals. The proposed terminal would provide additional annual capacity of 2.4 million TEUs, which is required to meet forecasted demand. The project is currently undergoing a federal environmental assessment by an independent review panel, under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Subject to regulatory approvals and permits, market conditions and a final investment decision, construction of the project would begin in 2018 and would take approximately five-and-a-half-years to complete. In January 2016, the port authority issued a Request for Proposals to five shortlisted teams, with submissions due in the fall of 2016. This process is ongoing and commercially confidential negotiations with the preferred proponent have begun.

In partnership with Tsawwassen First Nation and the Canada Border Services Agency, the Tsawwassen Container Examination Facility will be a new facility for the inspection of shipping containers imported through Deltaport. This will drive both security and efficiency while meeting anticipated growth, and is expected to be complete and operational in 2017, as well.

Strong overseas demand for Canadian grain products has led to six consecutive years of record mid-year volumes. Such trends are spurring significant developments and private investments in the bulk grain sector. Additionally, recent improvements to coal handling facilities continue to buoy the gateway’s ability to meet demand in key Asian markets.

Enhancing the supply chain through efficiency improvements

The port authority continues to work with its partners to create and invest in innovative programs that increase supply chain efficiency and transparency while optimizing the region’s operational capacity.

The port authority’s Supply Chain Visibility Project was launched in 2015 and in August 2017, received a $250,000 funding boost from the Canadian government to assess real-time information on supply chain performance for all rail cargo moving to and from the port. Peter Xotta, VP Planning and Operations at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, said, “The port authority is pleased with the federal government’s contribution to our project. Supporting the port’s rail network planning and infrastructure development is crucial for trade through the Asia-Pacific Gateway.”

The port authority works with its supply chain partners to increase visibility over supply chain performance allowing port users to better plan their operations. To do this, the port authority posts supply chain performance metrics on its website and on its new mobile app, PortVan eHub, which gives port users real-time monitoring of activities like terminal operating status, truck turn times, vessel information, rail crossing activity, and interactive maps. The port authority also provides webcams and a GPS dashboard. Using these tools, port users can access the absolute latest information to make better, more informed decisions.

In 2014, the port authority worked closely with the trucking industry and the federal and provincial governments to introduce a 14-point transportation plan. The final plan included fast-tracking the Smart Fleet Trucking Initiative and reforming the Truck Licensing System. The new system was intended to stabilize container trucking by ensuring that the supply of container trucks is more closely aligned with demand and that truckers are compensated fairly.

All 1,700 port-licensed trucks are now equipped with GPS technology to provide much-needed data to support the new system. In 2016, the port introduced a program to link GPS information from trucks with terminal information to improve performance reporting and capture more accurate truck wait times at terminals.

In efforts to further reduce truck processing times and minimize delays, the port authority also installed automated vehicle access control technology at its three major container terminals: Deltaport, Centerm, and Vanterm.

Facilitating Canada’s trade; one partnership at a time

Working closely with industry and government, the port authority continues to take important steps to build a world-class port, meet customer expectations, build infrastructure for future development, and create confidence in its ability to facilitate Canada’s trade.