By R. Bruce Striegler

“It’s exciting for us to welcome a new terminal operator,” says Captain Gary Paulson, Vice-President Operations, and Harbourmaster, Prince Rupert Port Authority. That new operator is DP World, the Dubai based company with more than 65 marine terminals across six continents which has purchased Fairview Container Terminal. Cpt. Paulson says that the new operator will move forward with phase two of Fairview’s expansion. “Fairview Terminal is growing, with another berth to the north.” According to Paulson, the new portion of the facility will be operational approximately June 2017. He adds, “Where we currently have the capacity of taking four container ships weekly, with the expansion, we’ll be able to take eight ships a week.” Both the terminal’s berths – the new and the existing – will be able to accommodate vessels over 360m in length.

“As we plan and prepare for growth in the number and size of vessels calling at the Port of Prince Rupert, we’re identifying measures to increase the overall safety of vessels, mariners and the surrounding environment of our harbour.” Cpt. Paulson is pleased with the Port’s safety initiatives to-date, “We have a state-of-the-art port security operations centre which we staff 24 hours a day and we continue to make improvements so our security posture is impressive.” Cpt. Paulson explains that through a Memorandum of Understanding with the Canadian Coast Guard, “We’re putting in new navigation aids which include a new Kaien Island sector light. This will help lead the larger container ships into our deep-water channel and then to the inner harbour.” The location provides a shore marker visible to mariners from either end of the channel, and is useful to all vessels entering and exiting the Prince Rupert Harbour.

The installation consists of a single light whose beam is divided into coloured sectors to provide warning or a leading line to mariners, and has a range of about five miles. “It’s a very efficient way of ensuring that a ship is on its planned track, as well as helping pilots and the tethered tugs which are lining up the large ships.” Paulson adds that the lights are also available to ships ‘on-demand’ if required. “A ship or pilot may require the light under some conditions, so they key in a VHF frequency and the light will come on.” Paulson says harbour user groups like the B.C. Coast Pilots expressed a need for additional navigational tools in Fairview Channel. At a cost of nearly half a million dollars, Paulson explains that Prince Rupert Port Authority will shoulder the capital costs of the light, built to Coast Guard specifications. Once operational, it will be turned over to the Coast Guard to operate and maintain. “I think this is a ground-breaking example of what partnerships can accomplish to ensure the port is safe for larger and bigger traffic.”

Making marine information available to more users

Cpt. Paulson says the port is enthusiastic about the new shore-based radar project. “We’re going to install three radar antennas that will provide complete coverage of the approaches to the outer and inner harbour and west of the pilot station.” The $5 million project, also built with partners, will enhance existing vessel traffic services and add another layer of safety. Once complete, the system will be turned over to the Coast Guard for on-going operations and maintenance. “The radar technology also permits us to check for oil spills in the jurisdictional waters of the Port Authority, allowing us to identify threats and respond to oil spills immediately.” Paulson says that in a similar fashion, the port is working with Canadian Hydrographic Services to post live information from current and tidal gauges on the port’s website. “Not only will commercial ships and pilots have access to that live data, but so will all the local mariners. It also takes the information and improves on the tidal predictions for Prince Rupert, it’s a constant quality improvement on the data.”

A smaller endeavour at the port is now also complete, says Paulson. An existing but unused roll-on, roll-off ramp had been located at the north end of Fairview Container Terminal. In 2014, the ramp lost buoyancy due to corrosion of one of its pontoons and became partially submerged. Following a Board of Directors decision, the recovered ramp and its infrastructure was relocated and re-installed on Ridley Island near Prince Rupert Grain. The location has commercial-only access to the CN rail network and TransCanada Highway 16. The $10 million project affords a 2.6 hectare (6.5 acre) laydown area. “What we’ve done,” says Paulson, “is introduce a breakbulk capacity to the port. Specialty cargo can arrive by ship where it is off-loaded at one of our secure inner harbour anchorages to a barge. The barge is towed to the ro-ro facility, the equipment is then off-loaded to rail or truck.”

From an operations perspective, concludes Paulson, the Port continues to work with LNG terminal proposals. “We continue to support the initiatives of three proponents by, among other things, looking at marine simulations for future LNG shipping, since there are no limits to the potential LNG traffic of the future.” On environmental stewardship, Cpt. Paulson points to the Green Wave Incentive. Vessels can qualify for one of three tier levels above the Port’s base harbour rates based on environmental performance. The tiers are built on a level of commitment towards reducing air emissions and pollutants, using more energy-efficient technology, and participating in marine sustainability organizations and initiatives that are being rapidly adopted worldwide.