The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has been leading the way in the implementation of new digital supply chain technologies and increased efficiencies at existing facilities. In addition to building new road and rail projects, as well as terminal and facility expansions, the smarter use of existing infrastructure and increased supply chain visibility are critical for managing growing cargo volumes. All three strategies are required to maintain a fluid gateway over the long-term.

Supply Chain Visibility

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority initiated the supply chain visibility program in early 2019 with a pilot project that developed a near real-time digital dashboard for three export bulk commodities—grain, coal and fertilizer—handled through rail and bulk terminals.

Based on the success of the pilot, from 2020 to 2022, the port authority, along with Transport Canada, the Prince Rupert Port Authority and other Pacific Gateway partners are collaborating on the West Coast Supply Chain Visibility Program to develop an “Insight Driven Gateway.” This program would report on all commodities, additional modes of transport, and import cargo. The port authority and its partners are working toward a goal of having visibility into the movement of 95% of all cargo through the west coast of Canada by the end of 2022.

The West Coast Supply Chain Visibility Program is a multi-phase, multi-year program that will develop and implement a series of operational planning and optimization tools tailored to participating industry members. These tools will support actions to increase capacity and operating efficiencies across the supply chain. Using business and technology insights, this program will create a comprehensive system of record for data related to goods movement and provide insights to greatly enhance the fluidity of the Pacific Gateway. This work is also supported by funding received from Transport Canada through the National Trade Corridors Fund in 2019.

Greater visibility into the supply chain can provide insights to maximize the performance of existing infrastructure, as well as the extensive investments made, being made or planned by governments and industry. This visibility will inform choices, made both individually and collectively, for infrastructure investments, policy decisions and day-to-day operations, and will facilitate the ability of the gateway and the associated supply chain to meet the demands of future growth.

The port authority also received NTCF funding to further explore short sea shipping. The short sea shipping concept development project will evaluate the viability of short sea shipping in and around Greater Vancouver to a stage where investment decisions could be made by interested parties. As part of this, the port authority will develop a business model, operational concept—including terminal and off-dock facilities—and financial analysis.

Short sea shipping would involve moving containers via barge from existing, deep-sea container terminals to a common-user container terminal along the Fraser River with direct access for trucks and rail, and an on-site warehouse/logistics facility.

Increasing efficiencies at existing facilities

In the cruise sector, the port authority has demonstrated  leadership in sustainable capacity growth through the use of innovative technology and changes to existing infrastructure.

As a major homeport on the Alaska-cruise itinerary, the popularity of Vancouver and Alaska as cruise destinations has over time created the need for increased capacity at the award-winning Canada Place cruise terminal. While the 2020 cruise season was postponed as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, planned upgrades at Canada Place will support the cruise industry when cruising is ready to return.”

Canada Place, located in downtown Vancouver, is an internationally-recognized landmark and multi-purpose venue for world-class events. The port authority is the owner and operator of Canada Place, which houses a convention centre, hotel, theatre, a multi-level parkade, and an office tower. It is also home to the largest cruise ship terminal in Canada, which has been the homeport to the Vancouver-Alaska cruise for nearly 35 years.

Since 2018, the port authority has taken measures to increase capacity at Canada Place by optimizing the existing footprint, while increasing operational efficiencies and improving the guest experience. As a result, Canada Place accommodated a record 22% growth in 2019 over the 2018 season, welcoming 1,070,915 passengers on 288 vessel calls. Before COVID-19 restrictions were put in place around travel and cruise operations, this growth was forecasted to continue with a projection of 1.2 million passengers on 314 calls in 2020.

To help inform and sequence appropriate changes to the cruise terminal and operations, the port authority developed a three-dimensional in-house simulation model using advanced analytics and visualization technology that simulates the behaviour of passengers during regular and peak cruise days.

Some recent examples of data-informed changes made during the past 12 months include:

  • installation of additional Automated Passport Control (APC) to reduce passenger wait times
  • improvements to queue management, including the installation of 40 additional new check-in counters
  • adjustments to staffing levels on regular and peak days
  • creation of an additional embarkation level using the second floor of the existing parkade to streamline luggage drop-off
  • enhanced wayfinding and dynamic signage program
  • reconfiguration of terminal space to expand passenger processing areas
  • redesigned ground transportation area to enable increased vehicle and pedestrian flows
  • providing free access to Wi-Fi throughout the terminal
  • use of underutilized elevators in port authority offices and other facility elevators during weekends to accommodate higher passenger volumes

Since its implementation, the port’s in-house simulation model has garnered international awards and recognition, and it continues to inform the port authority’s ongoing efforts to accommodate growth, while improving service to cruise guests visiting Vancouver’s Canada Place terminal.