By R. Bruce Striegler
“We have become the exclusive loader of raw logs in B.C. We started with about 25 per cent of the volume in 1998, but now we hold the majority of the business and have for about a decade,” says Ron Brinkhurst, President of B.C.-based marine services company Tidal Transport & Trading Ltd. “We founded Tidal Transport in 1998 when Empire Stevedoring exited the breakbulk business.” He explains Empire’s focus turned to container operations at Port Metro Vancouver’s Vanterm and Deltaport terminals. “This was really a continuation of the deep-sea vessel raw-log loading services I was involved with when associated with Empire.”
Over time, the company expanded and diversified the scope of operations to include Tymac Launch Service Ltd. and Tidal Coast Terminals. Mr. Brinkhurst notes that the company has also acquired partners and business in the U.S. “From a base in Portland, Oregon, Tidal USA offers vessel hold cleaning services throughout North America.” Brinkhurst says they saw an opportunity to complement traditional break bulk log shipments from northern British Columbia, and in early 2008 Tidal Coast Terminals assumed operational control of a former saw mill site in Butze Bay, Prince Rupert.
He explains, “If we go back about 10 years, nearly 80 per cent of raw log exports were loaded on the south coast, in Vancouver and New Westminster. Now it’s about 25 per cent of a much larger volume, loaded out of Fraser Surrey Docks. We don’t do any business directly out of Vancouver primarily because of log storage issues and handling efficiencies. We initially took this move to provide processing services to our Prince Rupert log exporters”. It wasn’t long before Tidal Coast Terminals entered into a joint venture with Coast Tsimshian Resources Limited Partnership, a First Nations forest company and Alcan Forest Products to install a debarking machine on-site.
The company has occupied the facility under a lease agreement, but Mr. Brinkhurst says that it became clear that in order to fully realize the potential, the company would need to make substantial investments. “We just closed on our site purchase this past April, and immediately entered into site improvements that have included paving and security undertakings as well as land-based improvements.” He says they are awaiting environmental permitting regarding disposal of dredging materials. “Fraser River Pile and Dredge is managing this for us, including design of shoreline improvements. The 54 acre site has 3,000 linear feet of shoreline and proposed improvements will give Tidal Coast Terminals increased capacity for barge handling and expand its capacity for any commodity which van be moved overland.
Expecting to be fully built-out within a year
Although the site does not have rail access, Brinkhurst says the intention is to create multiple barge handling service capabilities including lo/ro, heavy lift crane and also traditional barge ramp capacity, allowing servicing of between four and five barges simultaneously. Currently, Tidal performs a range of services on the site, including dewatering of loose or bundled logs, full sort and scale services, receiving logs and lumber by truck, bundling, dumping and booming logs. It loads lumber to scows for delivery alongside breakbulk vessels for loading and takes on container stuffing of logs, lumber and aluminum.
He says that all breakbulk operations, including raw-log loading takes place at anchorage. “We arrange for the towing of logs to shipside and then we load on-board directly from water.” The log handling and loading division coordinates towing and tending, manages labour requirements, schedules berth requirements and loading. Brinkhurst notes that Tidal loads more than 100 vessels annually. As well, the company offers pre-stowage planning and documentation, and interacts with all relevant government agencies. B.C.’s main log-load ports are Prince Rupert, Port Alberni and Island Terminal on Vancouver Island, with a dedicated log-load berth at Fraser Surrey Docks on the Fraser River.
Mr. Brinkhurst says Tidal re-entered the container stuffing business in June, by securing the cargo coming from Skeena Sawmills which produces specialty sized lumber products for customers in China, Alberta and the eastern Canada. “We are currently handling about ten to fifteen per cent of its products.” Brinkhurst says that in September alone, Tidal stuffed approximately 200 containers and is continuing to seek further container-related opportunities while looking at developing reefer plug-ins to provide service for seafood exports.
“We continue to meet the obligations of current raw-log exporters, but are also looking to expand into a multitude of cargoes coming into the port that could include steel and project cargoes such as well-set ups for inbound pipe.” He says that the company is developing with an eye to a range of cargoes which could involve those currently using other gateways including the U.S. Gulf Coast, U.S. west coast ports and even Vancouver. “We’re putting in the infrastructure to give shippers the confidence they can consider Prince Rupert for any cargoes coming into western Canada. We’re hoping to be part of the expanded breakbulk cargo capabilities of the port.”