By R. Bruce Striegler

Prince Rupert is one of the few major ports in the world that doesn’t have a local marine fueling service for cargo ships. In early September, Wolverine Terminals UCL made public its proposed plans to construct and operate a marine fuel delivery service that would enable cargo vessels anchored or berthed to fuel locally. Designed with the latest marine fueling technology, the fuel would be supplied via rail with distribution by barge to ships. The addition of the service would remove one of the few competitive disadvantages found in Prince Rupert. Currently ships must carry enough fuel to make a round trip, or divert to an alternative Westcoast port. In addition, the weight of fuel for a round trip often displaces potential cargo, and can drive up shipping costs. Westcoast ports that provide bunkering services include Alaska’s Anchorage and Dutch Harbor, Vancouver, B.C., Washington State’s Cherry Point, and Port Angeles. Vancouver is 748 km or 404 nautical miles from Prince Rupert.

Wolverine Terminals is conducting an environmental impact evaluation for a proposed storage location in Prince Rupert’s inner harbour, while engaging with First Nations and potential stakeholders as part of its regulatory approval application to the Prince Rupert Port Authority. Wolverine began community consultations in mid-October. Should the proposed service receive its necessary regulatory approvals, the Prince Rupert Marine Fuels Service is expected to be operational by mid-2019.

The proposed service relies on the construction of a marine berth and the operation of a marine fuelling service in the inner and outer harbours of the port. The marine berth would be located at a site previously used by harbour towing companies adjacent to the Westview Terminal owned by Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group. The new berth would handle the rail barge and transfer of fuel to the distribution barge. Distribution to ships will be handled by state-of-the-art barge, capable of blending and offloading fuel to ocean-going vessels. The fuel distribution barge will operate in accordance with Transport Canada requirements and industry best practices to avoid spills and minimize air, noise, and light emissions. The company said the project will create approximately thirteen full-time jobs.

One of the challenges of establishing such a service earlier was that fuel would have to be transported by barge from Vancouver or Puget Sound in Washington State through B.C.’s fabled Inside Passage – the route that tens of thousands of tourists marvel at from the decks of cruiseships enroute from Vancouver to Alaska. Further, the economics of establishing a Prince Rupert fueling service have not previously be on a scale to warrant such a service. With 461 ship calls in 2016, and expectations of increased growth, it appears an opportune time to fill that gap. Wolverine Terminals ULC is a Calgary, Alberta-based company focused on the safe and efficient development of energy-related marine terminals at key ports in Canada and the United States.