Monday, June 19, 2023

Prince Rupert Port Authority's APM has Port staying the course on Diversification and Growth for the Gateway

The Prince Rupert Port Authority hosted its annual review of the state of the Port for 2022 last Thursday evening, their Annual Public Meeting of providing a review of Port Performance, future plans and the financial themes of the business of Port operations in the city.

As well the night featured questions from the public both from the audience at the Crest Hotel and those submitted prior to the session through the Port's Communication office.

Monika Côté hosted the evening, providing the introductions to each of the evening's segments.

The themes of Diversification of Port operations served as the working narrative as the best way for the Prince Rupert Port Authority to navigate the global headwinds they are facing.

Board Chair Frans Tjallingii opened the hour long presentation with a few comments on the operations of the PRPA for the last year  

"2022 was a year  of challenges and opportunities for the Port of Prince Rupert. While continuing to face the supply chain headwinds important work was accomplished to enable the continued growth and diversification of the Prince Rupert Gateway.

This afternoon you will hear from our team about the specifics for 2022, but from a Board perspective it was notable in terms of the continued commitment to pursuing the Development plans that will determine the next chapter of the Prince Rupert Gateway. While ensuring a sustainable operation that prioritizes environmental sustainability and relationships with Indigenous partners:

Mr. Tjallingii also noted that the Board anticipates the challenging years through global uncertainty to continue for the near future term, observing that it is the Boards role to continue building for the long term.

"The Port has everything it needs to secure over 2 billion in potential new project investment which represents supply chain capacity and resiliency for Canada, new employment, economic opportunity for and tax base for the local community and surrounding region.  

PRPA is dedicated to realizing a vision of a competitive, diverse and sustainable gateway.

The Board also realizes that it's crucial to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with the diverse local First Nations and communities. And to take steps to ensure our joint values are reflected in a shared vision for the future. 

This helps us create ways to jointly achieve extraordinary success"

Towards that review of 2022 and the plans ahead, Port President and CEO Shaun Stevenson provided for a significant portion of the overview.

Mr. Stevenson opened his presentation with a salute to those working at the PRPA, part of what he referred to as a remarkable team working with the partners of the Gateway Community which is all part of Team Prince Rupert.

From the praise of staff and Gateway partners and service providers, the Port CEO and President pivoted to the challenge of the last few years.

"2022  was certainly a year of challenges and a dynamic backdrop of the trade that we anchor through the Port of Prince Rupert. 

As we came out of the backend of the Pandemic and the dynamics we saw geopolitically in the world, we're continuing to navigate those changes, changes that were seeing evolve even into 2023 and affecting our lines of business"

The review of Port Performance highlighted some of those challenges with Mr. Stevenson reflecting on a lower total volume of cargo that passed through the Port in 2022 from that of 2021.

click on all charts to enlarge

"That represented a modest decline from the year before, 2 percent so pretty much on par. 

But really saw a mixed performance depending on the line of business in the terminal and that dynamic backdrop continues into 2023.

We saw Geopolitical challenges, we saw congestion of supply chains, I don't think I remember a period in my 25 year career, that supply chains was more topical in the national narrative and discussions. 

Whether it be stocks out of goods on shelves or challenges in Canadian export industries it was very dynamic."

The Port CEO highlighted some of the promising areas he observed  from the 25 million tonnes in port cargo shipped in 2022.

Among those exports from Alta Gas, Pembina Gas and Drax's Westview Terminal.

When it comes to the most prominent feature on the Prince Rupert Waterfront, Mr. Stevenson noted of the current challenges facing the DP World Container facility.

"DP World's Fairview Terminal continued to see challenges within supply chain congestion and saw a modest decline of 2 percent in the volume of containers moved through the Fairview Container Terminal with just over a million TEU's moved"

Another area of of note for the CEO from the Operations of Trigon Terminal with flat results in coal, balanced by the growing prospects for their Gas shipments. 

"Another area of sort of called flat performance,  was the performance of Trigon Pacific Terminal, formerly known as Ridley Terminals where they saw a total of 7 million tonnes through the terminal over the course of the year. When you combine that though with the volumes through the Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal they saw 8.8 million tonnes.

So while they saw a modest decline in dry bulk volumes through the terminal, combined with propane it was a very busy place and  Trigon is a critically important part of our Operations within the Port of Prince Rupert"

Also facing challenges in 2022, was Prince Rupert Grain and the volume of product passing through Prince Rupert.

"Prince Rupert Grain had a challenging year last year, with a very low volume of 3.2 million tonnes through the facility, really reflective of the poor crop year we had last year. And a ninety percent drop over the previous year.

The return of the Cruise Industry in 2022 was noted as positive period for the Port las year, with 2022 the best year in over a decade. The Port CEO noting of the return of one of the larger vessels in the Ruby Princess and the advancement of the  recent operating agreement with Global Ports Holdings.

The review of Port Performance was followed by an overview of the Port's place in the global shipping picture and as part of the Canadian Supply chain, focused on a look at the challenges that are in place, as well as the ongoing focus for diversification for the Port.

Despite the challenges and global headwinds, the Port CEO and President noted that financially 2022 was a very positive one for the Prince Rupert Port Authority with strong results on the balance sheet.

"We saw an increase to our revenues to 66 million last year, one of our strongest years in the history of the port and that saw a net income of just over 30 million.  And this is critically important as we look to continue to invest in the growth and expansion of the port. 

But also invest in the sustainability of our operations overall. We have a very, very ambitious capital plan that these revenue are critically important to anchor and it's important for us to continue to look to invest those monies in the growth and expansion of the Port"

A look at some of the recently completed infrastructure work and those still in the planning stages took the spotlight after those notes.

With a review of the Fairview-Ridley Connector Corridor and what it means for a change for the Port in its focus to the south, the completion of the DP World Expansion project was also noted for the additional volume of shipments it adds to Port capabilities with the expansion south also eliminating any intrusion on the community with the direct link now in place to the south. 

Towards future plans among the highlights was the investigation of a Proposed Second Container Terminal which move forward last year.

"In February 2022, we also announce a partnership with DP World in exploring and investigating a second container Terminal for the Port of Prince Rupert, that can add an additional 2 million TEUs of capacity, as we look to plan in the decades ahead and ensuring that we've got the plan to continue to expand Canada's trade agenda to the Pacific Rim.

This represents the start of investigating a new terminal project and there's a number of studies and investigations required to understand how we might look to develop a project. 

How we might  understand now we mitigate the effects of on the environment and community and see how it fits into Canada's agenda to scale up capacity" 

Also gaining some attention was the work ongoing towards the Wolverine Fuels Terminal.

"In the third quarter of 2022 we saw the completion of the construction of the marine Berth for the Wolverine Marine Fuelling facility in the inner harbour. 

That construction was completed, we continued to see progress on that project with the fabrication of the dedicated barges and fuel distribution systems that will be necessary to support that critical service gap that we have in the Port of Prince Rupert and enable us to fuel ships in the Port of Prince Rupert.

As important, it provides us access to fuel out of their refining capacity in the Edmonton area to meet the low sulphur eco specs that are required today and we think that's going to be a great opportunity to look to really drive down the environmental impacts of vessels  moving up and down the west coast of Canada"

Other elements of note from the Port CEO"s overview, the Second Berth for Trigon on Ridley Island, the plans for the REEF project partnership for AltaGas and Vopak and advancement of work for additional Logistics capacity on the Ridley Island Export Logistics Terminal planning.  

As well, Stevenson observed on the planning underway for the South Kaien Import Logistics that project a project in partnership with Metlakatla. 

"All of these are a great example of the development portfolio that we have to continue to expand and grow the capacities within the Port of Prince Rupert and create more economic activity both here but also to the trade we support across Canada. 

But I think that it's important to point out, as we always do, that it's not just about what we grow, but how we grow. 

And we continue to proactively plan for the future with integrated development plans, a progressive land use plan. So that we can ensure that we can grow without seeing the same kind of bottlenecks, congestion and frankly conflicts with communities you have in Gateways"

When it comes to sustainability themes from the port, Stevenson took the audience through a range of initiatives and operational procedures in place.

Among the areas of note: Port Safety, Enhanced  Vessel protocols, Inter Agency partnerships, the work on removal of derelict vessels  along with environmental themes such as increased shore power options and the Port's participation and successful outcomes with the Green Marine program. 

One area of note for the community was the Port's increased attention to wind events and the impact on port operations, that focus framed by a 2021 marine incident in the harbour.

"Collaboration with DP World and ourselves new conduced a significant review of handling ultra large container vessels at the Fairview Container terminal. We know we have wind events within the Port of Prince Rupert, we did extensive simulation work to look at establishing new protocols around mooring of vessels while alongside. All informed by our continued capacity increases of larger ships and recognizing that we need to be better prepared to handle those large ships and ensure a safe regime.

We are all aware of what happened in 2021 with the MSC Altair. It was a large container vessel that broke free of its moorings in a high wind event. That event was a catalyst for us to review our Operations protocols with DP World.

And we implemented those new measures in our Port Practice Procedures Information Guide this year"

As part of the environment segment led into the PRPA review of its Community Investment program, with the Port adding another 1.7 million dollars to the fund, which will bring the total contribution to 17.5 million since the program started in 2010.

The Port's compensation on environmental impacts was highlighted, with the Seal Cove Salt marsh program noted as positive approach to that work, which helped to build partnerships. 

Building a better community was also a segment of the prevention, with the Port and CEO noting how the Port's purpose was local and regional in focus, as well as national and international. 

"Building a better Canada through growing trade is not just about building a better port, or just a better Canada supporting trade. It's about building better communities.

Building a better Prince Rupert,  Building a better Lax Kw'alaams,  Building a better Metlakatla, Building a better Port Edward, Building a better Kitkatla and the list goes on.

We're committed to a spirit of collaboration in that building a better community. To ensure that the benefits of trade, the benefits of the economic activity surrounding the port benefit all members of our community"

Indigenous engagement and partnerships was another are of significant focus for the APM presentation.

"We're also recognize and value the importance of our First Nations partnerships in that regard.

And we are very proud of the effect that we have had on creating economic vitality within those communities and within those peoples. 

We are proud of the fact that 39 percent of the workforce within the Port of Prince Rupert today is Indigenous.

We're proud of the fact that when we talk about these large infrastructure projects, the Fairview-Ridley  connector corridor, the Seal Cove Salt Marsh we talked about, the Fairview Container Terminal expansion; all were constructed in whole or in part by Indigenous businesses and joint ventures that is a tremendous success story.

We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars worth of capital projects that have been led by First Nations joint ventures and that is a tremendous measure of success that's not going to show up on an income statement, not going to show up on a balance sheet but I think its something that we can be proud of."

As he brought his portion of the presentation to a close, Mr. Stevenson reaffirmed the Port's commitment to doing better, its commitment UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Persons and to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission call to action 92, as the Port looks to expand and improve on its relationships.

A new face and voice delivered the financial segment of the day's program, with Vice President of Finance, Agnes Piotrowski stepping into the role that Joe Rektor fulfilled for decades with the PRPA.

Ms.  Piotrowski's  review took the audience through a stream of financial statements and highlights of the year just completed in December of 2022,, the financial themes providing some further background to the areas covered by the Port CEO and President previous. 

Payments in lieu of taxes, a controversial topic in Prince Rupert was included in this area of the presentation, with the Port noting of the 58.0% reduction for 2022, but not speaking to the topic in detail during the financial portion of the night.

The snapshot of where Prince Rupert sits in the overall Port picture nationwide, there was little change in the Port's placement over the last year. Though it was noted that improvements were found for the Port in the area of Operating expense ratios.

The final segment was a twenty minute Question and Answer period, with a number of the Port officials responding to inquiries from the audience or delivered by email. 

Among some of the key areas of note from that period:

The decline of volumes at the DP World Fairview Container Terminal and the impact on the community, with Shaun Stevenson revisiting some of the notes from the previous presentation, noting of the supply chain issues and congestion that has had a backup of the trade system. 

"So we saw congestion, we saw stock outs, we saw delays and the Port of Prince Rupert's value proposition of speed and reliability was no longer part of the decisions to route cargo. We've lost market share and frankly we didn't have the resiliency and the suite of capacities beyond the terminal like the logistics facilities I mentioned to buffer those events. 

He observed how things are returning to more normal levels and expectations and that with the efforts of all the partnerships the Port will see a restoration of that traffic. 

"We have reasons to be optimistic for the next, through this year as we move through the latter half and we remain optimistic for the future. But it shows you how important it is for us to collectively earn the cargo that comes through the Port of Prince Rupert.

It didn't come easy when we opened the terminal up in 2007 and we've earned it ever since and we need to continue to do that to demonstrate Prince Rupert's competitive advantage if we're going to see continued success"

The issue of light and noise pollution was a topic of note from the floor, with Des Nobels highlighting the issue that residents of Dodge Cove are facing.

In reply, Ken Veldman, the VP of Public Affairs and Sustainability offered up a review of some of the engagements that the Port has had with the community and some of the measures the port has taken on to address the topic.

"Most recently as part of the recent expansion DP World installed a new wind alarm system, that initially when it came on, well I think you described it as Banshees screaming in the night when we had our first conversation and that was a very apt description. 

I bring that up because you know, I think that DP World was actually quite effective in addressing that in a pretty quick timeline and is it perfect absolutely not, but they were able to dial it in so it was not as intrusive"

The Port VP noted that the safety related elements which is a challenge, as any substituton means that it can't reduce the safety element, noting that DP World continues to look at what can be done to address those issues.

Mr. Nobels reinforced the concerns of the community and how it continues to impact on those who live in that area and how it could be an issue of note for the City of Prince Rupert and District of Port Edward.

The refuelling element coming for the Port through the Wolverine Marine Fuels terminal  made for another question from the floor, with Brian Friesen VP of Trade Development and Real Estate revisiting some of the key timelines that had been noted by Shaun Stevenson. 

Mr  Friesen offering up an update on the status of the barges under construction in Vietnam and how they would be incorporated into the Wolverine Facility.

He stressed how the ability to service vessels in the Port environment would be an addition to the services offered by the Port and how that could add to the locational advantage for the Port.

Kirk Slocombe, VP of Operations, Planning and Infrastructure provided for a short overview of the Safety and Operating elements of the terminal which is expected to ramp up on the second half of this year.

Shaun Stevenson followed up by noting how the new marine fuelling terminal would be an important part of the Port's in filling a service gap, noting how it was unusual for a port the size of Prince Rupert not being able to offer that service.

From the email files came a question seeking an explanation on why the Port does not pay municipal taxes, that a topic that was taken on by Ken Veldman

"So obviously this has been a conversation of some note within the community over the past year and so I think our response to this is probably not surprising.  But I'll do it in a wholesome manner.

First and foremost, obviously we've seen a lot of growth over the last decade and largely that has been measured in terms of jobs and economic opportunity and what that's brought on that front and throughout this entire conversation, I don't think that has ever been in question which I think has been been great.

The second element is to note that PRPA, all of its tenants, all of the businesses within the Gateway do pay taxes and there is very clear Legislation that determines how those payments are made, but each and every single one pays property taxes.

Now that being said, as we've grown and you've seen those other economic benefits, there has also been a growth of tax base here. Ten years ago when you take that collective of I'll call it, Port businesses on PRPA property. That measured about five million dollars, last year that measured about 12 million dollars.

So we've seen significant growth on that tax base over the last ten years, and, it's almost two and half times ... 

And the vast majority of that goes to the City of Prince Rupert, and about a million plus goes to Port Edward as well; but most of that goes to the City of Prince Rupert and it makes up about 40 precent of their annual revenues on a net tax revenue perspective.

And that's significant, based on you know comparable municipalities that's a very large tax base so that does continue to flow and as we continue to grow that will continue to grow.

Now a couple of pieces within that. 

Number one what has driven that conversation is very much an understanding that the city's infrastructure, in particular water infrastructure is in a really critically urgent stage of renewal and I don't think anybody doubts that.

And what I really want to emphasize is that we have always been willing to be shoulder to shoulder with the City in terms of addressing that issue, and I actually see the mayor at the back.  

And quite frankly I think that we've been very effective over the last few months working together as partners, with senior government, on the path to securing infrastructure funds at a level that is actually needed to address this issue.

We're not there yet, I feel like we're making very good progress, the announcement from the province a few months ago of 65 million dollars towards this, is a remarkable reflection of what that partnership has achieved and we've got more work to do and we'll continue to do that.

So while we will have disagreements on things like the province's tax cap and the value of that, more recently the Port appealed the valuation of its vacant lands.  Which was a successful appeal where the BC Appeal board recognized that some previous assessments on our vacant land were erroneous and the methodology was flawed, and reset those assessments based on that finding.

That has an impact on city revenue we recognize that, but that is also you know a basic aspect of property taxation where properties need to be assessed according to that recognized methodology.

So while we will have challenges at times, especially on the financial side with the city there is an underlying natural partnership that is there, we have many more things in common than we have apart.

And when we have achieved great things in this community is when those partnerships have been effective and that's a very good example of that"

The final question of the night from the audience noted of ongoing Port growth in Vancouver, as well as if the PRPA port expansion plans and the prospect of additional capacity were still required.

Mr. Friesen took that on, noting that the PRPA numbers indicate that there is a need that the additional capacity is required on the demand side and how the competitive dynamic will determine that, noting of the footprint of the Prince Rupert option and the partnerships in place here.

He further noted that the project is a long term venture for the port. 

The last question came from the email collection and  put the focus on the lack of waterfront access for the community, with a question if PRPA would provide for additional access 

Ken Veldman took the question and outlined how the Port viewed access to the waterfront .

"Every community engagement we have, whether it be formal or informal,  we appreciate waterfront access is something within the community that has always been there and always will be there . 

But one of the things that were most proud of is,  is I think actually is the projects that we've been engaged with over the last ten years, they span a great number of things, but certainly waterfront access is one of them.

You know whether we're talking about even in just very recent years, the Promenade at Atlin, you know our significant engagement with the City in terms of Cow Bay Marina. 

Going back a little ways and you start to look at the Millennium Walkway, when you look at Rushbrook through the Community Investment fund, when we look at Seal Cove this year, these are all different aspects of Waterfront access.

And you know the reality is, is that one of the challenges that we have while we have a lot of land on Ridley, our land on the actual inner harbour is relatively limited and so you know it's working with partners to find out where that is in terms of what we can develop.

The other element is just from a Prince Rupert perspective, if waterfront access means beach, unfortunately one of the things that makes us a great port, doesn't make us a great beach town. Just in terms of how the water access looks like 

That being said we've got a significant Community Investment Fund, it's not the only big vehicle we use  for these kind of projects. But we're always dedicated to these kinds of Win-win projects where we can figure out ways to advance that. 

Because not only are we a corporation here, we are all residents of this community and we recognize the value of those kind of projects in terms making this a better place to live in
Port President and CEO, Shaun Stevenson added to that narrative. 

"Waterfront access can mean many things to many people and I think that the collaboration in the 2030 vision was a good example not just of the Port Authority and City working together, but also  of port partners. 

And then most recently we've had a great collaboration with the City of Prince Rupert comparing notes on central waterfront. You know the waterfront access is limited even between both the City and the Port Authority in what we have land and access to.  

So how can we look to you know optimize the opportunities for you know community access to waterfront and also the  commercial  vitality of the waterfront as well.

And we're seeing some of that in the Cruise program but also I think there's a heck of an opportunity in the area you know around the Kwinitsa rail museum and the City's project at the rail station, to look to optimize those to the benefit of the community overall.

And we've got some great planning in common dialogue going on with the City of Prince Rupert about that"

The full presentation on the evening is available from the PRPA website, along with some accompanying documentation to those themes.

You can review our past items on both the Port and its partners from our archive page here

No comments:

Post a Comment