By Leo Quigley, AJOT

A visit by Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman of Dubai World, to the Port of Vancouver on September 6 was a low-key event overshadowed by the Dalai Lama’s visit to Vancouver the following day. While the Dalai Lama promised to build his first Centre for Peace and Education in Vancouver, the chairman of Dubai World offered much more positive economic news.

Sulayem told guests attending the official opening of the recently-expanded Dubai Ports World (DPW)-owned container terminal, Centerm, that he had, “confidence in Vancouver and its investment climate.” The Dubai World chairman told the gathering that he intends to send teams to search out new opportunities for Vancouver that will result in “hundreds of millions of dollars,” for the development of hotels, marinas, condos and villas.”

Sulayem also pledged an additional C$200 million for further expansion for Centerm, on the Port of Vancouver’s South Shore, from 800,000 teus to 1.2 million teus annually, and to invest in warehousing and distribution facilities to support terminal operations.

Centerm, which has just undergone a major C$200 million expansion, was acquired by DPW as part of its takeover of P&O Ports earlier this year.

During the ceremonies, Sulayem referred only briefly to the fact that the US Congress had subsequentially blocked DPW’s P&O purchases south of the Canada-US border over security concerns. ‘We are business people,’ he said. ‘We decided to sell and do our business somewhere else.’

British Columbia’s minister of transportation, Kevin Falcon, welcomed DPW’s plans for further investment. ‘I’m very, very comfortable with his investment in this country,’ he said. ‘We’re very excited about the confidence that Sultan Bin Sulayem is showing in Canada, and in British Columbia in particular.’

Centerm became DP World’s first terminal in North America when it purchased P&O Ports earlier this year. At the time, Centerm was in the midst of a major upgrade that was launched in 2004. Completion of the expansion project has more than doubled the capacity of the terminal.

The expansion included extending the full berth length by 12.5 meters, installing two new quay cranes and extending the reach of two existing cranes, adding 16 rubber tired gantrys and 18 new tractor trailer sets.

In addition, the draft depth was increased from 13 meters to 15.5 meters and the number of reefer points was boosted from 300 to 546.

Container traffic at the Port of Vancouver is expected to increase from 1.6 million teus last year to five million teus by 2020.