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Cargo volumes set mid-year records: Port
Roberts Bank is on pace for a record year of container traffic and coal exports, according to Port Metro Vancouver.
Containers, coal, grain and potash all posted record numbers for the first half of 2013 across all Port Metro Vancouver facilities. Containers are up three per cent from the same period last year while coal is up nine per cent.
“So, we’re seeing growth in both the trade flows that take place through the Roberts Bank area,” said Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer for Port Metro Vancouver, referring to Deltaport container terminal and the Westshore Terminals coal port.
Silvester said the growth is based on strong demand for Canadian natural resources in Asia, while imports point to a strengthening Canadian economy.
Port Metro Vancouver is currently working on the Deltaport Road and Railway Improvement Project to make traffic flow into the terminal more efficient and increase capacity over the next four or five years, which Silvester said will need to be followed up by a Terminal Two expansion to meet future growth expectations.
Container traffic through Canada’s Pacific Gateway is expected to triple by 2030 and a multi-berth marine terminal expansion would add two million twenty-foot equivalent unit containers per year.
The issue of container traffic and port expansion has been a sore point for many Delta residents. Earlier this year, Mayor Lois Jackson visited a transloading facility in Ashcroft which she believes could reduce congestion in the Lower Mainland.
Port Metro Vancouver president and
CEO Robin Silvester
But Silvester said although Ashcroft could find a niche market for mining and processing plants in the interior and add to the overall supply chain it would not eliminate the need for a Deltaport expansion.
“I think there’s a role they can play, it’s perhaps not as big as they might hope,” he said.
Westshore Terminals, Canada’s largest coal export terminal, was up almost one million tonnes (mt) of coal for the mid-year, with a record month in June of 2.8 mt.
From January to June, Westshore exported 14.3 mt of coal, compared with 13.3 mt the previous year, and 12.9 mt in 2011.
What makes the increase more remarkable is that it follows a winter shipping accident that destroyed a trestle leading to a loading berth and put it out of action for two months.
On Dec. 7, 2012, a Panama-registered and Japanese-owned bulk carrier collided with the trestle, destroying 100 metres of the structure, including the coal conveyor system. It was repaired and put back into production ahead of schedule on Feb. 7.
“Even with the setbacks, Westshore has bounced back better than could be expected, I mean it was amazing,” said spokesman Ray Dykes.
Westshore’s productivity increase can be partially attributed to new equipment, including a twin rotary dumper and chute changes on all the conveyors to make them more efficient.
Westshore recently completed a $110 million, five-year period of major equipment upgrades, increasing capacity to 33 mt of coal annually from 23.5 mt. The company is now on pace to break its record of 27.3 mt set in 2011.
The increase comes without a decision yet on whether the port authority will approve a proposed new terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks that could add up to eight mt of annual coal-handling capacity. That proposal includes coal barges on the Fraser River that would rendezvous with deep sea vessels on Texada Island.
Meanwhile, the completion of the South Fraser Perimeter Road in December is expected to greatly improve container traffic and reduce congestion of trucks on Delta roads.
“It’s good from a community point of view and it’s also going to mean faster trips for the trucks which is good from a supply chain efficiency point of view,” said Silvester.