By Christopher Williams

Saint John has strategic importance to Canada’s trade and economy

Port Saint John has a new look, a North-South advantage and an aggressive plan for growth that provides opportunities for the entire region. Having handled 31 million tonnes of cargo in 2011, surpassing the 2010 record of 30.4 million tonnes, Port Saint John is moving full steam ahead.

“Our Port was founded on the determination of its citizens to be a force to be reckoned with in the marine transportation sector of our country and the world,” says Jim Quinn, President and CEO of Saint John Port Authority (SJPA). “However, our Port must continuously re-invent itself to respond to market forces and opportunities of the day.”

Wide stakeholder input

Consequently, Quinn is in year two of a Port Stakeholder Inclusion strategy based on four themes: Inclusion, Port as an Asset, Raise our Game, and Renewal. A year-and-a-half since taking the helm, Quinn has launched regular meetings to reach out to Port Working Committees that focus on operations, infrastructure and marketing.

This engagement feeds into a quarterly Port Advisory Committee meeting, consisting of port user groups, as well as provincial, municipal and environmental leaders. In September 2012, Quinn will host his third annual stakeholder forum, which casts a wide net into the community and brings feedback and innovation into the Port’s strategic planning cycle.

New visual identity

As Saint John Port Authority undertakes this new strategic direction to entrench itself in the community, the Port has created a new branding image of a 21st-century port – including a logo, positioning statement and messaging. “The new brand identity is a message that can easily speak about the Port to different audiences,” explains Paula Small, Manager of Public Relations, SJPA.

Small says the renewal of business strategies and community focus revealed a need for a new brand personality to reflect an organization that is modern, accessible, fresh, vibrant, bright, inspiring and focused on employment, industry, trade, tourism and being a “gateway.”

“All of the activities we are engaged in are designed to reawaken the sleeping giant that is Port Saint John to the marine industry globally,” adds Quinn, highlighting the importance of its geographic location and opportunities for growth. He says the arrival of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the Port’s first global container shipping line in more than 25 years, is a significant development for the region. “It is a major step forward in our renewal strategy,” he said.

North-South focus

“A new container service such as MSC makes Port Saint John a viable Atlantic Seaboard port competitor, poised to take advantage of a fundamental shift in world trading patterns, which is imminent due to the 2014 completion date of the Panama Canal expansion,” adds Quinn. Stephen Campbell, Chairman of Saint John Port Authority since 2007, agrees the Port’s focus on North-South trade connections “provides a world of opportunity to New Brunswick and beyond.”

Accordingly, this year’s annual Port Days are themed Port Saint John: Canada’s Gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean. On June 11, 2012, a Latin-inspired welcome reception and auction will welcome Port Days delegates and the Latin American/Caribbean theme continues at the business session on June 12, 2012. Also integrated into Port Days for the first time is the North/South Incoming Mission, which will match up potential business partners to discuss how they can be supported to develop Caribbean and Latin American business. An outbound mission is planned this fall.

Keep on cruising

“Cruise is another area of strength in the business mix at the Port Authority,” emphasizes Quinn. “The strength of this sector is critical to the overall diversity of our business. This diversity will support strategic investment in all of our Port assets in the long-term.” He says the Diamond Jubilee Cruise Terminal is part of a larger cruise enhancement project with funding support received from federal and provincial governments. This year, 73 cruise ships are expected to call, and 190,000 passengers are scheduled to arrive in Saint John.