By Keith Norbury

A new grain terminal at the port of Vancouver will be a boon for Prairie grain farmers, says the General Manager of Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission. “This is an incredibly good development for prairie producers of all grains but in particular for wheat producers,” Harvey Brooks said in a recent interview. “We are very happy to see these investments take place in the West Coast terminal facilities,” referring to G3 Terminal Vancouver, which went into full operation on the North Vancouver waterfront in the summer of 2020.

“State of the art”

The terminal is a “state of the art” facility that promises to save time and money for farmers in Western Canada “by keeping their grain moving to market and ensuring overseas customers have fast and reliable access to high quality Canadian crops,” said a news release from G3 Canada Limited at the time. A limited partnership between G3 Global Holdings and Western Stevedoring Company Limited, the terminal is on the site of Western Stevedoring’s former Lynnterm West Gate breakbulk terminal.

Peter Chura, corporate communications specialist with G3, said the grain company didn’t wish to provide an update, noting that the terminal is still in the early stage of operation. Mr. Brooks, however, indicated that demand for the terminal will be high. Prairie farmers have been producing crops at a record or near record pace for at least five years, he said. So they require more primary and terminal elevator capacity, as well as rail capacity “in order to get our products to market.”

G3 Global Holdings is a joint venture of Bunge Canada and SALIC Canada. (SALIC an acronym for Saudi Agriculture and Livestock Investment Company.) U.S.-based Bunge and SALIC are also partners in G3 Global Grain Group, which is a shareholder in G3 Canada Limited along with the Farmers Equity Trust that represents western Canadian Grain Farmers. G3 Canada Limited operates grain elevators in Western Canada and port terminals in Eastern Canada.

Remains of the Wheat Board

Headquartered in Winnipeg, G3 Canada also represents the remnants of the Canadian Wheat Board, which had for decades controlled the Canadian market for milling wheat and barley. G3 Global obtained a 50.1 per cent stake in the Wheat Board in 2015, combining its assets with Bunge’s Canadian assets, Reuters news agency reported back then. The sale came three years after the then Conservative federal government stripped the Wheat Board of its “single desk” monopsony over western Canadian wheat sales. The monopsony, as opposed to monopoly, had effectively made the Wheat Board the only buyer for western Canadian wheat and barley.

“G3 began with the vision of building a more efficient path from farmers’ fields to global markets,” a July 8, 2020 news release quoted Don Chapman, President and CEO of G3. “We are very proud to see this vision become reality at G3 Terminal Vancouver, thanks to the safe and efficient work of our contractor Peter Kiewit Infrastructure Co. and with the help and cooperation of Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.” The new grain terminal’s loop track, which the company says is unique among Canadian grain exporting terminals, can receive up to 150 cars. They unload in motion while attached to their locomotives and then return to the company’s Prairie grain elevators.

Construction on the terminal began in 2017. It included four dozen 14-storey grain silos and a 264 feet high work building, noted a North Shore News article.

First in 50 years

The terminal, which receives and ships various grains and oilseeds, can store 180,000 tonnes, said the G3 news release. The dock can handle ships as large as Cape-size. Its three large ship loaders can move as much as 6,500 tonnes an hour, “a new industry standard,” according to the company. The exact cost of the project wasn’t available. However, a 2016 estimate pegged the cost at over $500 million.

It is the first new grain terminal at the Port of Vancouver in more than 50 years. Other grain terminals in the port include Richardson International, Viterra, and Cargill. “We do recognize that a lot of Western Canadian wheat wants to flow west,” Mr. Brooks said. “And if it can flow there in a way that is timely and consistent and allows for smooth contracting and handling, that is the best outcome for everybody.”

Despite the cause for celebration, the COVID-19 pandemic forced G3 to postpone the grand-opening of the new terminal. “We will miss the opportunity to celebrate with our customers, partners and other guests but ensuring health and safety is of prime importance. Staff is working at the facility with physical distancing and hygiene measures in place,” Mr. Chapman said in the July news release.