Diversification and sustainability frequent port headlines these days as ports of all sizes struggle to keep ahead and meet future growth demands. It can be a balancing act no matter what the size of the British Columbia port, with the biggest issue for some being seen as the need for cargo diversification to build resiliency in the face of market volatility.
Photo above: Raw log exports are up 90 per cent in the first half of 2016 in Nanaimo (Photo: Arrowsmith Aerial Photography)
There’s a continued fervour to expand terminal capacities and open them to new cargoes. Typical of this is in the Port of Prince Rupert where its expanding Fairview Container Terminal will start moving its first refrigerated containers carrying Canadian-produced foodstuffs to Asian markets in September.
The ports in the province have enthusiastically embraced the fortunes of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) market, but despite Provincial Government encouragement, there hasn’t yet been a project to export the first tonne.
Even the best laid plans sometimes disappoint. When Canpotex made the business decision in June to walk away from its plan to build a potash export terminal in the Port of Prince Rupert, despite being a major player in the development of necessary back up lands into a new road and rail corridor on Ridley Island, there were no doubt some gasps of disbelief.
While supporting Canpotex’s decision based on market reasons, Prince Rupert Port’s Manager of Corporate Communications, Michael Gurney, said the authority was disappointed just the same. He said the Canpotex decision was seen as a “stark example of the ongoing challenge we face here at the port working with proponents and developers from various industries investing millions of dollars and years of effort in an attempt to get to a final investment decision and build trade enabling infrastructure, while at the same time commodity markets, exchange rates, environmental activism and political pressures are in a continuous state of change.”
It sounds like a never-ending challenge for all of B.C.’s ports in global markets and economies that can be fickle to say the least. Here’s how the major ports have fared over the past year or so.