Friday, June 25, 2021

Prince Rupert Port Authority APM reviews year of challenges and success and charts path forward for year ahead


The challenges of 2020 framed much of June's Annual 
Public Meeting hosted by the Port of Prince Rupert

The Prince Rupert Port Authority delivered its look at the year that was last week, with a June 16th live stream event that provided for their Annual Public Meeting an event that reviewed the work at the Port to prepare for more growth for the port, it's partners, stakeholders and the communities that are part of the supply chain across the North.

The night featured four segments, the evening hosted by Ken Veldman who served as the tour guide for the night, steering viewers through the presentations and hosting the Q and A session that brought the just over an hour of port information to a close.

Frans Tjallingii Chair of the Board for the Prince Rupert Port Authority and Port President and CEO Shaun Stevenson provided for the opening corporate overview of the Port operations.

Both port officials noting of the challenges of COVID that were faced by the Port, its partners and supply chain members.

"2020 will be remembered as a year of unprecedented uncertainty and challenge for the Port of Prince Rupert its staff and its stakeholders and the entire transportation sector that anchors the supply chains through the Port of Prince Rupert"

Despite those challenges and through the efforts of the thousands of women and men who work for the Port and its stakeholders and partners, Mr. Stevenson noted of another record year for cargo volumes, with over 32 million metric tonnes shipped in and out of the Port in 2020, which is a 9 per cent increase from 2019.

"This is a record for the Port and it solidifies Prince Rupert's position as one of Canada's largest ports and strategic assets for enabling trade"

All Charts, photos and graphics are taken from the
APM video presentation

Diversification for the future is a key element of the Port's forward looking planning, with the Port CEO and President observing of the opportunity that it offers the Port and the community. 

"Diversification of our trade base ensures that we can build the capabilities that can support Canada's growing and evolving trade agenda. Locally that means we can support an economy and employment that is resilient to the ups and downs of industry and economic cycles. PRPA and our partners have successfully attracted new investment and cargo growth into the Gateway that brings efficiency and resiliency to the supply chains that we anchor, in particular compared to other west coast ports. The value of trade flowing through the Port of Prince Rupert now makes it one of Canada's largest ports, truly a bit port in a small town and something we should all be proud of" -- Port President and CEO Shaun Stevenson on the  future for the Port of Prince Rupert

Towards outlining the blueprint for the future, Mr. Stevenson charted some of the Long Term planning that moved forward in 2020, including work on the Fairview Ridley Connector Corridor, Environmental Assessment for a Bulk Liquids Facility on Ridley Island and the process of expansion for DP World to increase container capacity as well as land based Import/Export Logistics infrastructure to support the Container Terminal.

The Port President and CEO also hailed the importance of First Nations partnerships and the strong representation of First Nations workers in the workforces of the Port and its partners.

"Most importantly we want to recognize that local First Nations are more than just stakeholders, we're incredibly proud that more than 35% of our workforce within the Prince Rupert Gateway is Indigenous. It's a true testament to our commitment to continue to uphold the themes of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People ... Local First Nations are our most important partners and we will continue to work with them to ensure that their interests are entrenched in our business and they're entrenched in every dimension of the Port operation" 

In the spirit of giving back to the communities of the North Coast, the Port also announced some good news related to their Community Investment Fund; with an additional 1.8 million to be added to that fund, making for more than 14.3 million delivered to communities across the region since 2010.

"This is our commitment to contributing a portion of our revenues annually to the community through the Community Investment Fund and this is in addition to the over twelve million dollars that PRPA and the tenants on Port lands contribute to the municipal tax base in Prince Rupert"

As it is every year, Joe Rektor outlined the Port's financials for the year, a tour of the Auditor's Report and other financial information charting the course of the Ports financial snapshot.

When it came to Benchmarks, Mr. Rektor observed that the Port of Prince had slipped to fourth spot of all national ports in areas of tonnage, though it had ranked third on revenues and second in Net income.

For Operating Income, the Port was in the top spot when it comes to the ratio of money required for operations.

Brian Friesen provided the review of the trade environment for the Port, with Coal, Propane and Wood Pellets leading the way for exports, while DP World's Fairview Terminal suffered a slight slip of six percent from 2019 levels.

Grain was up three percent, while Ridley Terminals was up 26 precent on coal shipments.

COVID resulted in Passenger counts which were down significantly for BC Ferries, while the Cruise industry had no port visits in 2020.

Mr. Friesen also reviewed the progress for the Vopak Pacific  project as well as the Ridley Island Logistics Platform and the DP World Expansion project.

The Pembina LPG facility also gained a mention in the Report, with the Port noting how that facility while out of the Port's footprint does serve to work towards their ongoing quest for diversification.

Kurt Slocombe also spoke to the Port's plans for infrastructure, included in his notes was an update on the Fairview Connector Road expected to be completed next year. He also expanded on the Logistics Platform plans for Ridley Island which will be connected to DP World through the Connector Road.

The additional measures put in place towards navigational safety also made for part of the presentation, with a review of the element introduced in the last year.

The PRPA planning and implementation of sustainability and Compliance themes was also part of the overview, with Ken Veldman taking viewers through the range of elements related to their various programs. He also shared some notes on the Port's Public Affairs programs and information sharing options, as well as an update on the Community Investment Fund.

The focus then shifted to the Question and Answer Portion of the night among some of the highlights from that thirty minute period included:

The impact of COVID-19 on Port Operations, with Shaun Stevenson  hailing the cooperation of the Port and the stakeholders, noting of the decline in shipment levels from Asia and the turbulence of global trade of the period.

The Vopak Terminal project proved to be a popular topic among contributors, with the update noting of the various types of bulk fuel products that would be shipped from the Ridley Island location, the focus for the Port is on market access for products from Western Canada that are somewhat limited at the moment. As for the Environmental Assessment process, the timeline has been underway for about three years and now also is undergoing a BC environmental assessment. 

Ken Veldman noted that the proponent has modified their design of the berth area and has outlined any impact on fish and fish habitat, as well as conducted risk assessments on marine loading and construction or decommissioning. He cited a number of measures and reviews related to salmon concerns and Green House gases, particularly around the Flora Banks area of the North Coast.

The future for the South Kaien Island Terminal project, known as the proposed second container terminal location was another question posed by those contributing on line. On that theme, there was little new information to share, other than the focus on long term planning for future capacity, with the prospect of more information to come in the year or so ahead.

The Fairview Ridley Connector Corridor was also an item of note, with a question as to when it will go into service. Kurt Slocombe reviewed some of the details on how it will work with the DP Fairview expansion planning, Mr. Slocombe noted that it is anticipated that container trucks will come off the city streets and use the Port's private roadway by the third quarter of 2022.

The recent protest at the DP Fairview Terminal was raised by one contributor, who asked if that incident may embolden other similar activist group protests in the future at the Gateway. In response, Mr. Veldman noted that the Port respects the right to demonstrate publicly, though it does have a responsibility towards safe operations.

"I would also say that PRPA has a responsibility to maintain the flow of trade through the port  and when that is compromised, the Port Authority has legal avenues that can be pursued when that flow of trade is compromised and the demonstration on it is actually happening within our jurisdiction, which in this case it was. 

More specifically to this case, you know certainly there was discussion with the demonstrators as to whether that could occur in a way that was not impeding traffic. But in the absence of the ability to reach that compromise, an injunction was applied for and received and shortly thereafter we were able to get work force into the terminal and continue on. 

You know, those are legal  avenues that we don't pursue lightly, but at the end of the day we do have that responsibility and certainly within our mandate and we have a legal system available to address that and we would continue to address it that way" -- Port VP, Ken Veldman on the recent protest at DP World In Prince Rupert.

The focus of questions returned to infrastructure, with a request for an update on the path forward for the Ridley Island Export Logistics Platform, Brian Friesen offered more background on the project and outlined the scope of the container business and how it has grown through the Prince Rupert Gateway.

Calling the Logistics platform a significant development for Canadian trade it will be part of the Port's desire to expand on export trade to address any imbalance between exports and imports, with the ability to link rail access to the shipping terminals and then transload them at the to be developed platform at Ridley Island. He noted of the opportunities for densification and automation, with a timeline still in the feasibility stage, with hopes for permits and authorizations in place for a final decision among the other partners involved.

If approved the construction phase would be two years or so, with another two years before it is fully actualized and in operation.

How the Land Use Plan impacts on neighbouring jurisdictions was another topic of note, with Mr. Veldman returning to the podium to review how the plan came together and how it aligns with the Official community Plans of neighbouring communities. He made note of viewscapes to be put in place to designate some areas as barriers to industrial development, pointing to the Port Edward area where that has been worked on. Among the commitments the Port will engage in annual planning sessions with communities and a more formal reference system beyond public comment when it comes to land use changes.

The progress for the Seal Cove Salt Marsh Project also gained some expanded review, the Port officials noting of the background towards its development as a compensation project related to the Ridley Island Connector Road project. The partnership with the City of Prince Rupert was also highlighted as part of a revitalization project to create some liveable space on the city's east side. As for the construction pace, the largest elements of the work should be completed by late July and early August with the area ready for community recreation by that period.

The DP World Expansion was also an item of interest from the audience, Kurt Slocombe provided a bit of a history lesson from the days of break bulk to the next phase of container use with an additional half million TEU to be added as part of the two part expansion. He also noted of the arrival of the eighth crane for the facility which is the largest to work in Canada to date.

How the Port deals with procurement issues provided for a tutorial on the Port's extensive work with area First Nations, which includes an ongoing benefit agreement which identifies aspects of projects which are a good fit for them and can result in a preferred contract arrangement with them. The arrangement one which the Port notes looks to ensure that its financial success can be shared by the local First Nations partners.

Towards its dealings with suppliers, the Port officials outlined how they explore the range of options that are available to meet sourcing requirements, primarily from local options.

What expectations that the Port has for 2021 brought the meeting to a close, with Shaun Stevenson, returning to some of the challenges of 2020, and noting that some of them continue on into this year. 

He addressed concerns over a loss of a major customer of Ridley Terminals through the Gateway and also spoke to the competition found up and down the coast and how those facilities are capturing growing shares of business.

"We're also looking at the competition that we see up and down the coast for the intermodal business and to a large degree we've seen tremendous growth in trans pacific trade in intermodal.  But Prince Rupert has largely not participated in that growth. 

After setting a record in 2019 we saw declines in our container business in 2020 and we continue to be challenged to create capacity, through expanding terminal capacity, but also these logistics facilities to aid us in the growth of that business. 

This year we're tracking slightly under last year and below what we had had for expectations for 2021. But you know I say again, we continue to strive to create capacities to facilitate growth and competitive advantage for the Port of Prince Rupert and that will be critical if we're going to be successful going forward."

The Full presentation from June 16th can be viewed below:

Also included as part of the APM Presentation is a review of the Port's Consolidated Financial statements and Port Authority Annual Report.

That documentation is available here.

More notes on the Port can be reviewed here.

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