By R. Bruce Striegler

2017 marks 10th anniversary of Fairview

Shaun Stevenson, Vice-President, Trade Development and Public Affairs, Port of Prince Rupert, says that with the August opening of Phase Two of the Fairview Terminal, and the final rail elements being completed right now, which will introduce a rubber tired gantry (RTG) operation, Fairview will realize its full capacity of 1.35 million TEUs, up from 850,000. Since its conversion from a breakbulk facility in 2007, Fairview Container Terminal has been recognized as one of the fastest growing container terminals in North America, and established a reputation as one of the fastest and most reliable trans-Pacific trade gateways. “This will give us a third track and allow us to run up to five train departures a day.” The expanded terminal now includes a second vessel berth serviced by three new Malacca-max cranes, allowing 20,000+ TEU vessels to access the terminal. With an additional 6,000 feet of on-dock rail, and an 11 hectare increase to the terminal footprint, more speed and reliability will be added to terminal services. Fairview Terminal is now the second-largest container terminal in Canada, with Deltaport in Vancouver being the largest. With the completed expansion, the terminal can handle the world’s largest container ships, and the increased capacity will support importers and exporters who favour Fairview for its position as the most efficient and fastest route from Asia to North American markets.

In 2015, the Fairview Terminal changed terminal operators, with DP World taking over from Maher Terminals Holding Corporation of New Jersey. “With DP World we have a great partner with a global network that is a great alignment for the Port as we move forward, as we realize not only this phase of expansion but future potential expansion and ancillary services at the Port.” When asked if there was a possibility of over-expansion for container terminals on the North American Westcoast, Stevenson replied, “There is terminal capacity up and down the Westcoast, but we’re seeing a lot of capacity being rationalized as we see alliances shift and consolidation happening within the steamship lines, so it’s not so much a capacity game anymore, but rather what a port is developing in terms of a competitive advantage as a container gateway. From that point of view, we think we have plenty of upside to continue to grow and expand, and are working with CN Rail and DP World to scope out that next phase of expansion.”

Container capacity increases on the West coast continue

He says that from the beginning, the container terminal development at Prince Rupert has been a large development, but approached in phases. “We can see Prince Rupert developing in excess of 2.5 million TEUs at capacity.” With consultation underway at the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2, south of Vancouver, for additional container capacity of 2.4 million TEU’s and other American expansion, Stevenson says that each project will be determined on its own merits and what each proposal’s business case is. “We feel very strongly we have a great deal of upside yet to be achieved in the container business and working with DP World we’re working to determine what the best program is to meet that market demand.” Responding to questions around potential trade turmoil that may come for the U.S., Stevenson says, “As ports, we’re ultimately instruments of trade, and I think that what we’re seeing globally, in some of the protectionist narrative, are threats to international trade, and as such, they bring a degree of uncertainty.”

“There continues to be an expansion of the workforce related to the Fairview Container Terminal operation, and overall that contributes to a significant number of jobs.” Stevenson says that there are in excess of 3,000 direct jobs related to the port of Prince Rupert, both in Prince Rupert and the region. Commenting on First Nations involvement, Stevenson notes, “We have a great alignment with our First Nations communities, and as we see new projects and expansion plans realized, First Nations people are playing a significant role in the economic opportunities that come about. Whether that be through straight employment or preferred contracting, or setting up joint ventures to participate in construction work, or even service agreements. With Fairview, they’ve played an important role, both in construction of the project but also in the jobs created. In some cases, they’ve also invested and set up their own businesses, whether that be in trucking or other services to capitalize on the economic impacts of a growing port.”

Balancing port development against community concerns

Addressing the issue of opposition to port development, a topic familiar to Vancouver residents, Stevenson says, “Any time you’ve got a new project being considered for Prince Rupert, there’s always a balance of mitigating the impacts of construction, but also operations of these facilities. Even with rigorous environmental assessments and a significant amount of time spent on land-use planning, we know that a growing port does create some challenges.” He notes that one of the current concerns is the growth of trucking through the downtown core. “What we do is to look to infrastructure investments that mitigate some of those impacts, for example, we’re examining advancing the Fairview Corridor, which is a dedicated road/rail corridor between the terminal and where we see logistics activities develop. That will totally eliminate truck traffic through the downtown core.” He comments that while the port may be the engine of economic opportunity and vitality, as the city grows up around them, it risks ultimately choking out the efficiencies that led to the city being developed in the first place.

Reviewing other events at the Port in the past year, Stevenson talks about Ridley Terminals, a federal crown corporation, which owns and operates an advanced coal unload and loading terminal. “Ridley Terminals has ridden a roller coaster of global commodity prices, we saw a peak of coal volumes of just over 12 million tonnes at the height of the resource super-cycle, followed by rapid declines, especially in metallurgical coal, but Ridley is looking to diversify, to position itself as a dry bulk solution and not just for coal.” AltaGas Ltd. has started construction of the Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal that is expected to ship up to 1.2 million tonnes of propane per year, transported by CN Rail from gas producers in Alberta and British Columbia, and deliver approximately 20 to 30 cargos per year to international markets, commencing early in 2019.

The deal is a 30 percent partnership with Rotterdam-based Royal Vopak, a strategic global tank storage company. The facility is estimated to cost between $450 and $500 million. Stevenson says, “We’re supportive of the Terminals’ efforts and are optimistic that we’ll see some recovery of the coal markets, perhaps up to seven to eight million tonnes of coal this year.” In addition to the AltaGas facility, Stevenson says the Port is working with Vopak, investigating a large liquid bulk terminal development just south of Ridley Terminals. Although not directly a Port development, Pembina Pipeline Corp. has signed a non-binding letter of intent to develop a liquefied petroleum gas export terminal on Watson Island, south of Prince Rupert. The Calgary-based pipeline operator signed the agreement with Prince Rupert Legacy Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the City of Prince Rupert.

Prince Rupert also enjoys a significant cruise business. The port’s location lies on the Westcoast cruise route from Vancouver to Alaska, and Stevenson notes that, “Our cruise business was up appreciably, probably the strongest year we’ve had over the past five.” In other developments, the Port of Prince Rupert has added two new export transload facilities in the past year; Ray-Mont and CT Terminals. “CT Terminals is handling rail service for forest products and Ray-Mont Logistics is handling rail service for agri-business, transloading the contents of incoming hopper cars into containers.” Employment at the Port has more than doubled since 2009, and presently totals 3,320 full-time jobs. In addition, the average annual wage has risen to $64,000 from $54,000 over that period.