Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Port Alberni had one of the highest paid per capita workforces in Canada. Fast forward through a couple of decades of battered forestry and fishing industries and things looked quite different when Zoran Knezevic came on the scene. Now, after three years under Zoran’s leadership, activity in Port Alberni is ramping up. With two major projects proposed — an LNG export terminal and the Port Alberni Trans-Shipment Hub — Port Alberni is starting to show signs of returning to its former glory.
BCSN: Let’s start with some background on the Port Alberni Port Authority (PAPA). What are your main areas of operations and activities?
ZK: PAPA is one of 18 port authorities in Canada — all are members of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities and operate with the same rules under the Canada Marine Act. We’re one of the smaller ports — last year we moved about one million tonnes of cargo. We have jurisdiction over a 47-kilometre-long inlet from the mouth of the Somass River through the remaining waters of the inlet all the way down to Tzartus Island, including Port Alberni’s inner harbour. We operate as a Canadian Port Authority under our Letters Patent from the federal government, which designates us to oversee the inner harbour and shipping terminals and the remaining foreshore waters of the Alberni Inlet under a headlease agreement with the Province of B.C.
We’re quite diverse in terms of the kind of activities we undertake. We manage four marinas and one campground, over 100 foreshore and federal real property asset leases and 56 float homes in addition to our core business of shipping. We have a three-berth terminal with 7.5 hectares of land, from where we predominantly ship logs and lumber (780,000 cubic metres of logs last year plus 60 million board-feet of lumber); and four warehouses, three of which are operated by private businesses under separate lease agreements.
We lease one of our warehouses and part of our dock to Independent Seafood Corporation of Canada; another warehouse and outside storage space to Canadian Alberni Engineering; and the third warehouse as well as an adjoining large building to Cantimber Biotech Ltd., which is a new value-added wood fibre operation now in the process of setting up their operations. We are also proud to have assisted in the development of a joint venture between Hub City Fisheries and the Tseshaht First Nation to retrofit, renovate and reinvigorate an ice plant and fish processing plant formerly operated by Port Fish.
There is also Centennial Pier, which performs as a floating breakwater providing protection for Fisherman’s Harbour. The breakwater itself has become a great community recreation and leisure area for locals.
I think you can see that, from fulfilling our core obligations as a shipping port, we’re also always thinking of ways to engage the community, whether it be through tourism and recreational fishing, boating and camping opportunities or through partnerships and collaborative funding with organizations like Small Craft Harbours, First Nations, the City and the Island Coastal Economic Trust.
BCSN: I understand you’re also working on some significant projects. Let’s start with Steelhead LNG’s proposal for an LNG export facility.
ZK: Yes, that’s right. In late summer 2012, we were approached by a large global energy company looking at the feasibility of using Port Alberni as an export facility for LNG. Before that, LNG was predominantly focused on the Prince Rupert area but the more we discussed the plan with the proponent, the more we realized that the Port Alberni region has many benefits and is well positioned for the export of LNG.