AIRPORT GENERAL manager Carman Hendry doesn’t understand why federal border authorities would turn down an offer that won’t cost them any money.
The Northwest Regional Airport has been asking the Canadian Border Services Agency to restore what had been a telephone check-in service pulled from the airport in 2005.
Up until that year, those landing by plane from another country had been able to pick up a phone and, depending upon what was required, wait for the arrival of a border official from Kitimat.
But when the Kitimat office was closed, the airport service was lost.
The result, says Hendry, puts the airport behind in meeting a growing demand tied to the increasing number of large industrial projects in the region.
Requiring aircraft arriving from another country to first land somewhere else is time consuming, costly and, ultimately, steers business away from the airport here, he adds.
“We have people telling us they’ll pay for that service on a cost recovery basis. That’s the importance they place on having this kind of service here,” said Hendry.
“What we’ve been asking for is a resumption of what we once had. If it was to be an agent in Kitimat again, that’s fine. The location isn’t important to us, but the service is,” he continued.
Hendry said the society’s board of directors is convinced having a border services office again in Kitimat makes sense because of the expected growth in marine traffic once liquefied natural gas exports begin and should other export plans materialize.
“And how does that happen? By ship,” said Hendry.
What makes the problem stand out here is that varying degrees of border clearance services are available at airports in Smithers and in Prince Rupert.
“All we’re asking is for what we had,” said Hendry.
But the airport’s request for service, even if costs are recovered, has been turned down by the Canadian Border Services Agency.
In a letter to Hendry, agency official Ivan Peterson says there aren’t enough employees at the nearest agency office in Prince Rupert to handle any business in Terrace.
And, Peterson continues, the distance between Terrace and Prince Rupert is more than 100km, the limit officers will travel.
“Furthermore, road and weather conditions during the winter in particular may prevent officers from even traveling to Terrace-Kitimat,” Peterson added.
Hendry says he knows of a circumstance where four Prince Rupert agency officers flew in a helicopter to Kitimat to clear a ship and then flew to Stewart the same day to clear another ship.
“What this really is an administrative problem that [the border services agency] needs to deal with,” said Hendry.
“We have people who will pay for the service,” he said.
The request for border service is being backed by local governments and economic development agencies.