Over the past year, the scale of activity at Port Metro Vancouver has reached unprecedented levels, with throughput volumes consistently exceeding forecasts and numerous major infrastructure improvement projects underway in the Vancouver Gateway.

Port Metro Vancouver had a strong 2012 having handled 124 million tonnes of cargo by year-end. Record levels of container and bulk volumes moved through the Port, with container volumes reaching 2.7 million TEUs, an impressive eight per cent jump over 2011. Bulk volumes reached 83.7 million tonnes, with growth seen in metallurgical coal in particular. Breakbulk throughput reached 16.7 tonnes, with significant growth also seen in the numbers of automobiles and cruise passengers moving through the Gateway. Continued growth is forecast for 2013, with mid-year results already indicating another record-setting year. As of June, total throughput has reached 66.4 million tonnes, a six per cent growth over the same six-month period last year.

The economic effects of this burgeoning trade on the Lower Mainland and across Canada were measured in the 2012 Port Metro Vancouver Economic Impact Study, released in June 2013. The study shows that more than $475 million worth of cargo is handled through the Port every day, generating more than 98,800 jobs nationwide, with 38,200 direct jobs created in B.C. alone. Most striking to Robin Silvester, President and Chief Executive Officer of Port Metro Vancouver, is the finding that 19 per cent of the goods (by value) in Canada were shipped through this gateway.

“That, and the number of jobs that were shown to come out of port-related activities, and at a wage that is well above the average Canadian wage, surprised even us,” Silvester says. “The economic impact data highlights the significant role of Canada’s largest gateway to the Asia-Pacific.”

Providing Gateway Capacity

The continued growth in cargo volumes is driving the need for greater capacity and efficiency in the Port’s supply chain. As part of an unprecedented $9 billion in infrastructure investment in the Gateway, 17 projects are either completed or underway in the Port’s three trade areas. This is in addition to an expansion of existing container capacity through the Deltaport Terminal Road and Rail Improvement Project and the proposed construction of a new container facility at Roberts Bank.

According to Silvester, co-operation has been a key element of the past decade’s investment in the Gateway’s supply chain and related infrastructure.

“I think the differentiator has been the way all of the stakeholders have collaborated to create capacity and efficiency,” Silvester says. “We’re seeing it among all levels of government, the Port, terminals, railways and other stakeholders, as well as people in the communities impacted by these developments. We’re also seeing collaboration in terms of day-to-day use of port facilities, with everyone working together to optimize our collective competitive advantage through the supply chain initiatives.”

The participation of Port Metro Vancouver’s industry partners in planning for growth is evident in the handful of tenant-led projects proposed over the past year, many of them designed to provide added capacity and/or increase the efficiency of landside operations. Permitted projects include upgrades at North Vancouver’s Neptune Terminals to install a new stacker reclaimer, expand the terminal’s coal handing capacity and to build new phosphate rock storage and handling facilities. Other permitted projects include works at West Coast Reduction to facilitate an increase in canola capacity as well as grain storage capacity improvements at Richardson International.

The heavy investment in Port Metro Vancouver’s infrastructure and supply chain efficiency, as well as its strategic location relative to fast-growing Asian markets, has certainly caught the attention of the worldwide commercial shipping business. New this year, United Arab Shipping Company has started calling on Port Metro Vancouver.

“It’s part and parcel of the growth we’re seeing,” comments Silvester. “We now have 19 of the 20 largest shipping lines calling at our Port. It’s a reflection of the fact that we really are a major hub.”

Port Metro Vancouver has also been working with representatives of Fraser Surrey Docks and Western Stevedoring to look at growing project cargo import opportunities. The Port is the closest gateway to the intense activity related to the Alberta and B.C. energy project sectors, offers cost competitive transportation rates and has dedicated terminals with expertise in handling imported steel, machinery and project cargo.

Defining a Sustainable Gateway

A sustainable environment and strong economy are not mutually exclusive. Both in the Lower Mainland and all across Canada, it is important to maintain the balance between them. With predictions from several different economists that container traffic on Canada’s west coast is going to continue to increase, Port Metro Vancouver is working hard to determine how it can best facilitate and manage growth in trade over the longer term.

The Port 2050 process, completed in 2011, defined the anticipated parameters of the future world in which the Port will be operating. The outcomes of the Port 2050 process will guide future business priorities, shape new initiatives and ultimately transform every aspect of Port Metro Vancouver’s operations.

As part of this transition, work is now underway to plan how to manage Port Metro Vancouver’s physical assets in a way that supports growth within that context, through updating its Land Use Plan. The Land Use Plan has a third round of stakeholder consultation scheduled for early 2014 and completion slated for mid-2014. The update will lay out the policy guidelines and intended development directions guiding land-use planning for decades.

A key consideration in the planning process has been the declining industrial land base, with more than 3,000 hectares lost to commercial and residential development over the past two generations. While optimizing the efficiency and usage of existing port-related property is essential, there is growing interest in the creation of an industrial land reserve.

“We have this great opportunity to create jobs and benefit from trade because we are at the centre of the global shift of trade from Europe to Asia,” says Silvester. “But if we don’t preserve the land to allow us to capitalize on it, we’ll miss out.”

Work has also begun on developing a Sustainability Vision to explore what a sustainable Gateway looks like and help us plan for the future. The Port has long factored sustainability into its goals and operations. In fact, the Port’s work in sustainability, ethics and environmental governance was acknowledged through receipt of an Honourable Mention at the Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries’ first annual Excellence in Governance Awards in August 2013. The Port additionally publishes an annual Sustainability Report to Global Reporting Initiative B+ level standards.

Port Metro Vancouver is looking to extend this approach well into the future through the preparation of the Sustainability Vision, which is currently being developed with assistance from an advisory panel, consisting of a cross section of gateway leaders. Public consultation will begin in the fall.

The objective of the process is to define what a sustainable gateway looks for the organization and to develop a framework for integrating this vision into business, strategy planning and daily operations.

“What we’re trying to do is encapsulate sustainability in a way that the organization can use readily, every day, as part of what we do,” says Silvester. Work on the vision will be completed in early 2014.