By Keith Norbury
Prince Rupert Port Authority and terminal operator DP World have entered into a two-year agreement to assess the feasibility of a new container terminal. The proposed project would add up to two million TEUs of annual capacity at Prince Rupert, the parties announced Feb. 24.
“This agreement is a clear demonstration of our commitment and confidence in the viability of a second terminal at the port of Prince Rupert,” the announcement quoted Maksim Mihic, DP World (Canada)’s CEO. “Our vision for this proposed project will ensure the Canadian trade and supply chain landscapes are future-proofed. The feasibility studies will employ a pragmatic approach, exploring the use of advanced technologies and ideas to position the new terminal as an industry leader within Canada and the world.”
Shaun Stevenson, the Port’s President and CEO, added that the second container terminal “will help consumers, exporters and industries across the country while continuing to contribute significant economic benefit for local communities, the broader region and our Indigenous partners.”
RUPERT READIES FOR REBOUND
The announcement came as work on expansion of the port’s existing Fairview container terminal continues apace to increase its annual capacity to 1.8 million TEUs by 2023. It also comes on the heels of an “uncharacteristic” 23 per cent decline in the port’s overall cargo volumes in 2021. Most of the decline was because of the loss of a large thermal coal customer and also because 2021 was a poor crop year, which reduced grain exports, Mr. Stevenson said in an interview with Canadian Sailings.
Prince Rupert also experienced a modest decline in its container business, which he attributed to disruptions in the trans-Pacific trade and the intermodal segment as well as congestion at other West Coast ports “that have impacted the service strings into Prince Rupert.” Container volumes dropped to 1,054,836 TEUs in 2021 compared with 1,141,390 TEUs in 2020, and 1,210,776 TEUs in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic. “So we actually saw some modest decline of container volumes because of just the disruption to those services,” Mr. Stevenson added.
SHIPS SKIPPED RUPERT
Mr. Mihic said that the reduction in container volumes at Fairview Terminal resulted from ships skipping Prince Rupert to secure places in line at Los Angeles-Long Beach. Congestion at that massive port resulted from pandemic-induced soaring demand for consumable products. “So with normal market conditions, there’s no congestion, they go to Prince Rupert,”
Mr. Mihic said. “They will discharge the Midwest cargo, for the Chicago and Detroit area, and they’ll go down south. But now, because of that congestion, they tried to save time by skipping calls at Prince Rupert.” Some carriers realized that if they called at Prince Rupert instead of L.A., they wouldn’t have to wait. They could discharge cargoes bound for the U.S. Midwest and return quickly to Asia.
As noted in a news release in January, the Port introduced “an express COSCO pendulum shipping service” between Fairview and Asia, and “a new trans-Pacific service offered by MSC.” Other recent highlights from Prince Rupert as noted in the January news release included the following:
- AltaGas’ Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal had a record year, handling 1,493,876 tonnes;
- Pembina’s Watson Island LPG Bulk Terminal came online with 370,525 tonnes exported;