By Daniel-Robert Gooch, My first few weeks as President and CEO of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities (ACPA) have been spent meeting with our member ports and learning about the importance of Port Authorities to trade and tourism in Canada. I have come to the conclusion that while there are differences in business and financial models between Canada’s Port Authorities and Canadian airports, which I served in my previous role, there are also some shared concerns.
I am struck by how Canada’s ports, like airports, wrestle with maintaining critical trade-enabling infrastructure while investing in the future. ACPA was pleased to participate in the Government of Canada’s recent National Supply Chain Summit and put forward recommendations on how to do just that.
Canada Port Authorities have been critical to the federal government’s efforts on trade and supply chains, including infrastructure funding to ports through the National Trade Corridors Fund (NTCF). In our pre-budget submission to the federal government, ACPA made additional suggestions to promote supply chain resiliency, decarbonization and trade facilitation:
- Develop a dedicated financial support to scale green shipping corridors at Canadian ports ACPA was pleased to see the government becoming a signatory of the Clydebank Declaration for green shipping corridors, and urges it to scale this support to Port Authorities across Canada. This initiative is an important recognition of the role of ports on decarbonization and our members are keen to support it. To do so, however, Port Authorities will need dedicated green corridor infrastructure financial supports to meet our country’s commitment as a signatory.
- Revive the Shore Power Technology for Ports Program offered by Transport Canada As more vessels seek to avail themselves of shore power and ports work to decarbonize and reduce emissions, financial aid would cover the costs of port infrastructure required to support these efforts.
- Develop dedicated funding for port infrastructure focused on decarbonization and the energy transition NTCF has been a boon for Canadian infrastructure and a clear success in identifying and funding key investments, with ports as key beneficiaries. To target decarbonization, Port Authorities recommend a new fund or an NTCF envelope that specifically supports the infrastructure needed to receive vessels operating with more sustainable fuels of the future, including hydrogen hubs, consistent with the federal government’s Canadian Hydrogen Strategy.
- Continue focused National Trade Corridor Funding to support supply chain resilience ACPA was pleased to hear of the federal government’s allocation of $50 million to strengthen supply chains and tackle bottlenecks via a new call for proposals under NTCF. NTCF has been pivotal to upgrading ports, with additional funds assisting with supply chain optimization.
Canada’s Port Authorities also note that federal action is required to give them access to private sources of capital, subject to financial risk assessment, which would accelerate major infrastructure project completion and alleviate the need for federal funding.
Borrowing limits on ports, many of which were set decades ago at the formation of Port Authorities, are insufficient in raising the capital needed for infrastructure investment. Amending them is such a lengthy process that interested private capital often walks away. ACPA also recommends that the government revise the current formula for establishing borrowing limits and that these criteria be determined by commercial lenders.
Canadians are looking to the future, to how we can emerge and prosper after COVID-19. Recovery is an opportunity to transition Canada into a leadership role in green, inclusive, digital, and resilient Port supply chains. The recovery will require trade and global connections to build wealth, and Canadian Port Authorities will be central to facilitating our country’s sustainable recovery.
Daniel-Robert Gooch is president and CEO of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities. Until February 2022, he was president of the Canadian Airports Council.