Fairview Container Terminal on Jan. 18, with cargo railcars in the foreground and cranes in the background, was highlighted in a PRPA cargo volumes report with expansion and an eighth quay crane in 2021. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Fairview Container Terminal on Jan. 18, with cargo railcars in the foreground and cranes in the background, was highlighted in a PRPA cargo volumes report with expansion and an eighth quay crane in 2021. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Port of Prince Rupert cargo volumes drop by 23% in 2021

Despite decrease, ‘milestones’ were celebrated according to port authority

Port cargo volumes dropped by 23 per cent in 2021 in a “tumultuous year” despite moving more than 25 million tonnes through the coastal city, according to the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) in a statement on Jan. 18.

“The decline in volumes reflects that our terminals and partners are in an extremely dynamic and competitive market, and emphasizes the importance of our work to position the Port of Prince Rupert for targeted growth in capacity and further diversification of our cargoes,” Shaun Stevenson, president and CEO of PRPA said.

In 2020, an economic impact study by the Port of Prince Rupert Gateway Council showed gateway operations handled approximately $60 billion in trade value and supported an estimated 3,700 direct supply-chain jobs in northern B.C., $360 million in annual wages, and $147 million in annual government revenue in 2020.

The PRPA stated the volume shortage is associated with disruptions to the intermodal supply chain, industry-specific issues and the West Coast market competitiveness. The port’s total 2021 volume was 25,014,134 tonnes.

The loss of a core coal customer to Ridley Terminals contributed to the deficiency, which created a sharp decline in cargo transported through the terminal. Prince Rupert Grain saw fewer shipments due to a poor crop year and yield. The second summer of cruise ship cancellations also deteriorated passenger volumes to nothing in the region. DP World’s Fairview Container Terminal volume declined to 1,054,836 TEUs (twenty equivalent foot containers) throughout the year.

In defiance of the cargo loss to the PRPA overall numbers, Prince Rupert leveraged its natural abilities to secure its competitive position with new services in its intermodal business, stated the port.

DP World’s Fairview Terminal secured an express pendulum shipping service with COSCO between the North Coast and Asia. The three-way partnership with CN brought two new rail services running to Chicago and Toronto. As well, a new transpacific service with MCS was entered into.

“Importantly, 2021 served as a significant period of construction and investment as the port celebrated milestones and made strides towards completion of several critical infrastructure projects to help further enable trade and diversity in the gateway,” PRPA stated.

Stevenson said PRPA continues to advance the development of critical infrastructure and expansion projects to best support the resilience, diversification, and growth of Canadian trade and supply routes.

“Given the year that we’ve all experienced in the province of B.C. with the impacts of extreme weather events, supply chain congestion, and economic uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, 2021 served to underscore the necessity for additional investment and diversification in the Prince Rupert Gateway to offset trade pattern volatility and shore up the economy against any future supply chain disruptions on North America’s West Coast,” Stevenson said.

As part of the PRPA “celebrated milestones,” the inaugural shipment of liquified petroleum gas (LPG) left Watson Island in April 2o21, from Pembina’s Prince Rupert terminal with more than 377,525 tonnes exported. It was a record year for AltaGas Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal, with more than 1,493,876 tonnes handled in the facility. Also, a new fuel distribution service at Wolverine Terminals Inc. started construction to provide services at the port.

Expansion of the container yard at Fairview Terminal saw construction start in Q1 and the arrival of the eight quay crane, which will allow servicing to the largest vessel afloat today. The port said the project will create new capacity on the line by July 2022 and will bring the overall capacity of the terminal to 1.8 million TEU by the end of 2023.

The export of more than 1,442,851 tonnes of wood pellets created a strong year for Westview Pellet Terminal, which is owned and operated by Pinnacle Renewable Energy and is now a subsidiary of the Drax Group.

The PRPA also experienced benefit from the Fairview-Ridley Connector Corridor, which includes intermodal rail siding expansion and a haul road to allow the rerouting of container truck traffic away from the public road. This will decrease air emissions and distance by 75 per cent. Commissioning will commence in 2022.

“The Ridley Island Export Logistics Project, a project that will support large-scale export transloading, maximizing value to Canadian exporters, the South Kaien Island Logistics Project, an import logistics park with transloading and warehousing capabilities, and Vopak Pacific Canada, a new liquid bulk storage facility and marine berth, are all expected to make final investment decisions early in 2022,” PRPA stated in its release.

“With global supply chains experiencing unprecedented challenges and volatility, the Port of Prince Rupert remains proud to have been a leader in efficiency and fluidity on the West Coast and we hope to continue to offer an uncongested port of call for trans-Pacific trade as a key strategic gateway for Canada,” Stevenson said.

K-J Millar | Journalist 
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