Canada Invests Again to Capture More Asian Trade

Port of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. (Image - Handout, Vancouver Sun)

Last week the Canadian government announced that a “Significant federal investment will create local jobs and economic growth, while facilitating the movement of Canadian exports to high-growth Asian markets.”  (“Harper government further strengthens Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway advantages“)

Meanwhile, Congress continues to debate the need for a national freight strategy, and question the value of funding national significant freight projects that could improve our economy and sustain jobs. And, about $5 billion of port infrastructure funds sit unallocated by the White House and Congress (“Feds Sit On $5 billion While Harbor Maintenance Needs Go Unmet”).

And many Members of Congress (along with a number of Ports) reject modifications to port infrastructure project funding rules that could help West Coast ports fund infrastructure projects that could help them compete more efficiently for Asian trade.

Northwest U.S. ports have been concerned for some time about the Canadian investment in its west coast ports.  See Feds to Study Why U.S.-Bound Cargo is Diverting to Canadian, Mexican Ports for a short overview.  The Port of Prince Rupert recently announced that 2011 was a record year for exports.

Here’s the latest step forward for the port of Prince Rupert (PRPA): The Canadian government announced it will pump $15 million into a project at the Port of Prince Rupert (about 500 miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia) that increases the Port’s ability to attract and handle more Asian trade. Canada adopted a national freight strategy years ago to help target investments to projects that would expand trade and economic opportunities for its businesses and citizens.

Oh – and this latest project is a public private partnership.  An approach that many federal and state elected officials are skittish about.

The $15 million is for the Ridley Island Road, Rail and Utility Corridor (RRUC), a $90 million project also funded by CN, the Prince Rupert Port Authority and provincial government via a public-private partnership:

“The RRUC project calls for providing rail and road access to 1,000 acres of multi-user heavy industrial land that’s accessible through the port’s terminals. The public-private partners plan to create a common-user rail corridor, roads and access to port property.

“Building capacity at the Port of Prince Rupert is necessary for the expansion of Canada’s trade with fast-growing Asian economies,” said Don Krusel, the port authority’s president and chief executive officer, in a prepared statement. “This investment unlocks the sustainable development of port infrastructure and industrial waterfront that will benefit industries across Canada.”  (“Canadian government helps fund current, completed port projects,” Progressive Railroading)

For a current 30,000-foot look at what’s currently happening at Prince Rupert, here’s Port president & CEO Don Krusel:

“Prince Rupert Port Authority is pursuing a 10-year expansion plan that embraces the long-term needs of a broad spectrum of industries, partners, and just as important, our neighbours. Already, the coal terminal in Prince Rupert is undergoing an expansion that will double its capacity. At the same time, several other projects are close to, or are undergoing, environmental assessments, including an expansion of the Fairview Container Terminal.

Moreover, our relatively recent growth has enabled us to integrate cutting-edge safety and security features into the Port’s facilities before they are built. For example, at Fairview Container Terminal, scanning and screening technologies ensure the most secure entry of containers in all of North America.”

And lest you think PRPA benefits from relaxed environmental or community standards, Krusel adds:

“To emphasize our environmental commitment, Prince Rupert became the first West Coast port to join the Green Marine Environmental Program in 2010. . . . Transparent and credible, the Green Marine program requires the Port to adopt concrete practices and measurable actions, as well as undergo rigorous external audits, to ensure that we operate in a sustainable manner. (“Prince Rupert Port Is Leading Edge,” Vancouver Sun)