Port of Prince Rupert announced that a federal investment will enable a shore-based radar regime designed to accommodate growth in vessel traffic occurring because of increasing levels of trade between Canada and Asia-Pacific markets. The capital cost of the project is estimated at $5 million, with $2 million to be underwritten by Western Economic Diversification Canada. Ongoing operation and maintenance of the radar system will be provided by the Canadian Coast Guard (Fisheries and Oceans Canada).

Shore-based radar will continue to build on the existing vessel traffic service that provides active vessel monitoring and navigational information to vessels at the port of Prince Rupert.  Shore-based radar will improve the capability of the organizations responsible for vessel monitoring and management to prevent vessel incidents in the harbour, expedite ship movements and increase transportation system efficiency.  This important electronic navigation system is expected to be operational by the fall of 2016, with three tower sites on BC’s north coast providing coverage ranging from the northeast of Haida Gwaii to the Alaskan border.

“This project will result in a new and foundational piece of our marine safety and security network at the port of Prince Rupert, providing an additional layer to the maritime picture we use to keep our harbour safe and ensure a diverse range of cargoes continue to flow securely through our trade gateway,” said Don Krusel, President and CEO, Prince Rupert Port Authority. “Our local partnerships enable improvements like this to make a safe port even safer, and matching investments from senior government organizations allow us to carry forward our long term development vision in a safe, responsible and sustainable manner.”

All commercial vessels in the area are currently required to report in to Canadian Coast Guard’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services [MCTS] at specific positions in their approach and exit, and are provided with accurate, complete and current navigational safety information.  In addition, commercial watercraft in excess of 500 tonnes other than fishing vessels are required to employ the Automatic Identification System. AIS continuously transmits ship name, classification, and provides the ability to plot location, course, speed and other information.

Radar is a useful tool that provides more specific information related to distance and direction, and is employed on board hundreds of commercial vessels visiting the port, giving ships’ masters a complete representation of the waters around them.  The addition of shore-based radar to the current AIS technology creates an enhanced, real-time visual network for MCTS to monitor and manage vessel traffic movement in the Prince Rupert Harbour regardless of size, AIS capability, or whether they are required to report their location to MCTS.

“This investment in shore-based radar coverage of the British Columbia northern coastline around Prince Rupert is an important contribution to Canada’s public safety and the strategic priorities of the RCMP,” said Chief Superintendent Sean Bourrie, the head of the RCMP’s Federal Policing in BC. “This tool will help us gather and analyze intelligence at the port and from the surrounding maritime environment in support of our law enforcement initiatives.”

“The addition of shore-based radar to the Port will further enhance the safety of the area by ensuring that the smaller vessels not utilizing the AIS system or participating in the MCTS system will now be tracked and reported upon, as will vessels at anchor,” said Kevin Obermeyer, President of Pacific Pilotage Authority. “This is great example of the Port of Prince Rupert identifying a safety need and acting upon it for the benefit of all the port users.  It is initiatives such as this that ensures the Port and its partners can accommodate the growth of this Canadian trade gateway.”

Port of Prince Rupert stewards 35,000 acres of tidal water between its inner and outer harbour, which includes 30 commercial vessel anchorages for the roughly 500 ships calling on its terminals each year. Six cargo and passenger terminals see roughly 20 million tonnes of bulk, container and project cargo shipped through the Port annually.