While President and CEO Ewan Moir discusses the “big picture potential” for the Port of Nanaimo in this month’s Industry Insight (see page 14), he also reviewed current activities and trends for this Annual B.C. Ports Update.
Looking at overall cargo volumes, Nanaimo continues to enjoy year-over-year growth of about 3.5 per cent in both imports and exports with the exception of a 23 per cent jump between 2015 and 2016 mainly due to logs and containers. Total volumes, however, only tell part of the story and, as Moir and his team recently underwent a five-year business plan exercise, new opportunities to expand the reach of Nanaimo’s Port have been identified.
The first of such opportunities was announced in June this year. The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, announced an investment of more than $6.3 million for a new 17-acre facility with a 60,000-square-foot Vehicle Processing Centre and supporting infrastructure to repurpose the existing Nanaimo Assembly Wharf as a multi-purpose general cargo terminal. Initially to focus on improving Canada’s supply chain for automobiles imported into the country, the project is expected to generate upwards of 200 jobs during construction and an additional 100 jobs once the Centre is fully built out and functional. The first car carrier is expected in January 2019. Moir expects the first year will see about 12,000 vehicles and grow to 50,000 when operators Western Stevedoring have completed a second-phase expansion.
Looking at the container sector, Nanaimo’s business has gone from zero in 2012 to just over 44,000 TEUs in 2017. Expecting similar numbers for 2018, Moir reported on discussions with DP World about “changing the model” to provide for greater flexibility as they near peak capacity. “There are some great opportunities to grow this sector of the business to move up to the next level,” he said, adding that bringing an international connection to Nanaimo would bypass the Lower Mainland and allow Island manufacturers to ship directly overseas. “DP World is working on that. We’d have to make some changes — capital initiatives at Duke Point and we’re more than prepared to partner with DP to make that happen.” Indeed, this type of project reflects the NPA’s new vision, encapsulated by the revised tagline, Local Benefits – Global Reach.
A review of forestry industry stats saw the NPA grow at a rate of about 6.6 per cent for forest products and logs between 2016 and 2017. While positive, Moir sees the increasing containerization of products as presenting new opportunities. “Forest product exports in general are growing. Lower-value logs are going offshore to China, Korea and Japan mainly and while we rarely load a whole ship, we’re usually loading a large percentage,” he said. “We see roughly 35 log vessels per year but also see a lot of growth in the containerization of forest products.” In just one example of new opportunities, Moir reported that the Port was working with the Teal-Jones Group to bring in equipment to create wood chips.
Steel is another commodity holding promise for the NPA. With Lynnterm West being prepared for the G3 project and Fraser Surrey Docks changing its product mix, Moir sees an opportunity to use the NPA to receive cargoes which can then be short sea shipped directly to clients outside of the busy Vancouver area. Similarly, ideas to increase project cargoes include opportunities associated with the LNG Canada project in Kitimat. “The idea has been floated that we take a portion of land and establish a small module manufacturing operation where the product can then be shipped by barge directly to Kitimat,” Moir said.
In other news for the Port, Moir expressed excitement in welcoming
Western Canada Marine Response Corp-oration’s expansion into the area. A new on-water spill response base designed for faster spill response for the eastern Vancouver Island area will be situated near Nanaimo Assembly Wharf. In addition to having the capacity to deliver equipment for a 20,000-tonne spill within 36 hours of activation, Moir sees potential for the new base to become a centre of excellence — a place where the community can come to learn about oil spills, including an education component for local schools.
Inclusion of the community in WCMRC’s new base is indicative of Moir’s philosophy on communications and partnerships. “We’re making decisions today that will outlive our careers and, most likely, our lives,” he said. “To be able to make the right decisions, we need to be fully engaged with the community and with key community partners, including residents, City Council, First Nations, academia, business and industry. Gaining trust through open, honest and transparent communications with the many different stakeholder elements of the region is a top priority for us.”