In 2016, the Port of Vancouver introduced its aspirational and bold new vision: to be the world’s most sustainable port. The new vision is the result of a collaborative effort dating back to 2010, when the port initiated the Port 2050 planning process, involving 100 individuals and organizations that have a stake in the future of the port. Port 2050 participants identified four possible scenarios for the future of the Vancouver-area gateway, including one scenario participants believed worth aspiring to: The Great Transition.

The Great Transition scenario represents a shift to a lower-carbon economy with a focus on sustainable trade, allowing Canada’s trade needs to be met, while maintaining a healthy environment and enabling communities to thrive.

In 2013, the port began to engage industry, government, Aboriginal peoples, and communities to envision their shared future and define what sustainability means for the port community. The resulting definition now guides how it operates, and how it continues to embed sustainability throughout its business, processes and operations.

What defines a sustainable port?

The port authority’s vision is supported by three individual pillars, defining the attributes of a sustainable port: a healthy environment, thriving communities and economic prosperity through trade. Each pillar includes a number of focus areas, which are in turn supported by statements of success to help identify specific priorities.

Ongoing efforts to embed sustainability into its processes and operations in these focus areas provide a unique opportunity for collaboration with the port authority’s transportation and supply chain industry partners. Through ongoing engagement, alignment with industry to integrate sustainable practices into key areas of port growth and performance are yielding results. “More than a year after announcing our vision, we are continuing to see progress in each of our three pillars of sustainability,” said Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. “We are proud of the work we are doing to accommodate Canada’s trade needs, while at the same time maintaining a healthy environment and enabling thriving communities.”

Economic prosperity through trade

Reflecting on its commitment to bring lasting value to its customers, the port authority’s new vision incorporates creating “economic prosperity through trade” as critical to sustainably improving efficiency and reliability in the gateway. In this area, the port authority is working with industry partners to foster competitive business, employ strategic investment and asset management, and support an effective workforce.

Driving competitive business

Industry participation in the Container Vessel On-Time Incentive Program has contributed to improving competitiveness in the Vancouver gateway. This program provides discounted wharfage fees to recognize container vessels that arrive within eight hours of their scheduled berth window. The port authority’s target is to achieve a 75 per cent rate of vessels arriving on time. In 2016, independent verification of the data confirmed that the average was 59 per cent on-time arrival.

In 2016, a model was developed to forecast container volumes three- to- six months in advance, based on past trends and economic indicators. This model will be launched in 2017 to enable more informed decisions by supply chain partners, allowing them to plan their operations and handle goods more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Practicing strategic investment and asset management

Planning for growth and protecting the limited availability of industrial land in the Vancouver-gateway alongside industry partners continues to be a priority matter of strategic investment and asset manage­ment for the port.

Responding to long-term growth forecasts for demand in containerized trade, collaborative industry partnerships aimed at improving the efficiencies of existing infrastructure, and maximizing the productivity of any proposed increases in terminal footprints, have been underway since the beginning of the Deltaport Terminal, Road and Rail Improvement Project in 2013. With the inclusion of proposed on-terminal improvements and expansion at Centerm container terminal and the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 container terminal, a combined increase in containerized capacity of 3.6 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) by the mid-2020s is currently planned.

In 2015, an Industrial Lands Inventory showed that only 20 per cent (5,586 acres) of the region’s supply of industrial land was vacant and available for development. Of the land available, only 1,000 acres is suitable for trade-enabling uses like logistics warehouses; a number that falls short of the roughly 1,500 to 3,000 acres required by supply chain partners to meet projected growth. Every 100 acres of land developed for logistics use generates $1.9 billion in economic benefits, an important contributor to a prosperous and sustainable region.

In step with its industry partners, during 2015 and 2016 the port authority took an active role in safeguarding remaining industrial lands for port uses. In addition to the acquisition of five new industrial properties and the related amendments to its land use plan, optimization of vacant and underused industrial properties located along the Fraser River took place. The port authority continues to collaborate with industry partners to raise awareness and propose solutions to governments and communities across the region to protect industrial land.

Supporting an effective workforce

A cornerstone of the economic prosperity generated through the Vancouver gateway is the diverse, skilled and productive workforce that enables the safe, efficient and sustainable movement of goods. Port-related activities support 44,400 direct jobs across British Columbia. The British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) represents ship owners and agents, stevedores, container, bulk, breakbulk, auto and cruise terminal operators on Canada’s west coast, and oversees the training and recruitment of workers of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and the daily dispatch of labour to port terminals.

In 2016, the BCMEA entered the sixth year of a historic eight-year agreement with the ILWU. This agreement provides significant reliability and stability for the port’s customers and waterfront workforce. In addition, the BCMEA is also investing $12 million in training wages and is working to increase female representation in the ILWU from 10 per cent to 20 per cent.

Becoming the world’s most sustainable port

In 2017, the port authority developed sustainability priorities on which to engage stakeholders, identify mutual interests and take measurable steps toward achieving progress in the three pillars supporting its vision. Ongoing engagement and collaboration with transportation and supply chain partners are critical to creating economic prosperity through trade, and ultimately the world’s most sustainable port.