Port of Prince Rupert expansion boosts local economy and beyond

Mar 13, 2012

By Lisa Fattori

Aerial of Ridley Terminal. Image courtesy: Prince Rupert Port Authority.

Expansion at Port of Prince Rupert is welcome news for a region that has experienced economic hardship, job losses, and a dwindling population for the last decade. The Prince Rupert Port Authority’s (PRPA) Gateway 2020 Plan builds on the business success of the port’s cruise, container and bulk commodity terminals to increase capacity and meet the ever-growing demand for resource-based commodities by the Asian market and countries around the world. Closer to Asia than southern ports, Port of Prince Rupert saves companies three days in shipping time and the port’s natural deep sea and ice-free harbour, as well as its capacity to increase terminal infrastructure, are assets that give the Port of Prince Rupert a unique advantage over other North American ports that are already operating at capacity.

The Phase 2 expansion of the Fairview Container Terminal will increase the capacity of the terminal up to two million TEUs per year. The project is a top priority of the port’s Gateway 2020 Plan and calls for an initial expansion to the north, with the addition of a second marine berth, more cranes and an extended rail system. A southern expansion, as well as the construction of an industrial access road between Fairview Terminal and Ridley Island, are included in the project.

Fairview Container Terminal. Image courtesy: Prince Rupert Port Authority.

“The Phase 2 expansion of Fairview Terminal is undergoing an environmental assessment, which should be complete by the middle of next year,” says Shaun Stevenson, VP of marketing and business development for the PRPA. “The expansion will triple the size of the Port of Prince Rupert, making it the second-largest port in the country – right behind Vancouver.”

While the inner harbour has limited back-up lands, the outer harbour/Ridley Island has over 1,000 acres of industrial land available to accommodate new liquid and dry bulk commodity terminals and logistics industrial parks. In September, the B.C. Government announced a $90-million project for a new road/rail and utility corridor on Ridley Island.

Inbound and outbound rail lines, as well as tracks that loop around the island, will provide the transportation backbone to support new terminals for bulk commodities, including lumber, wood pellets, coal and potash.

This phase of the port’s $300-million expansion is expected to create 570 construction jobs during the project’s 2012-2014 construction period. The province anticipates that at the end of the port’s 2020 expansion, approximately 4,000 operational jobs will have been created throughout the northwest, with 1,500 of those jobs within Port Rupert.

Ridley Island road-rail utility corridor. Image courtesy: Prince Rupert Port Authority.

“We’re thrilled to see a project that will get us out of economic doldrums, but we have to make sure that the workers are coming from the area,” says North Coast MLA Gary Coons. “In northern B.C., we have a huge shortage in skilled tradespeople, so we need to prepare our youth, our laid-off forestry workers and those caught in the downturn of the fishing industry in order to fill these jobs.”

Independent of the development on Ridley Island, Ridley Terminal Inc. (RTI) is expanding its coal facility to double the terminal’s capacity to 24 million tonnes per year. The $200-million project includes clearing and performing civil work on a 35-acre lot and a nine-acre lot and replacing the existing dumper barrel. Subsequent phases will see upgrades to the rail lines, along with the installation of a third stacker/reclaimer, a second thaw shed and a second tandem rotary dumper. Construction of the project is expected to be completed by 2015, at which time the RTI will employ approximately 141 people – a significant increase from the terminal’s staff of 48 in 2007.

The dumper barrel being installed at the Ripley Terminal Inc. coal expansion at Port of Prince Rupert. Image courtesy: Ripley Terminal Inc.

“In 2008, Ridley Terminal Inc. was mandated by the government to operate as a commercial business, and management has done an excellent job of attracting a number of customers from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and the U.S.,” says Bud Smith, RTI Board chairperson. “Since 2005, we’ve tripled our business, and this expansion will enable us to increase capacity to meet demand.”

Port of Prince Rupert is working with Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group, which has plans to establish a pellet shipping facility at the port’s Westview Terminal. The $30-million project involves the construction of four 15,000-tonne pellet silos and a bucket elevator tower, as well as a rail yard where pellets will be received for shipping. The company plans to start construction in 2012, which will take approximately one year to complete.

A long-anticipated addition to the port is Canpotex, with stakeholders hopeful that the company will choose Port of Prince to set up the world’s largest export terminal for potash. The $400-million project will develop a facility that will have the capacity to ship over 12 million tonnes of potash per year. Environmental and engineering approvals are expected to be completed by the end of 2012, with the construction commencing in 2013.

Image courtesy: Ripley Terminal Inc.

The Port of Prince Rupert’s ideal proximity close to Asian markets, coupled with Western Canada’s abundance of natural resources, is a winning formula that promises economic prosperity for both import and export markets. At full build-out, the port is expected to generate $310 million in wages in direct employment per year, and a total of $740 million in wages for direct, indirect and induced employment.

“The port expansion is a direct response to the demand for commodities and the need to increase capacity,” says Prince Rupert Mayor Jack Mussallem. “Right now, Prince Rupert is in a transition period. The city is moving from [being] a resource-based community to becoming a transportation centre on the Pacific Rim in service of other countries.”

This article was previously published in the 2011-12 edition of NorthWORKS magazine, the official publication of the British Columbia Construction Association North.