TERMINAL OPERATORS - Prince Rupert: A dream coming true

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  

By Leo Quigley, AJOTThe Port of Prince Rupert has always been destined to become a major seaport. Unfortunately, this has never happened over the past 100 years.Prince Rupert is a port founded by the visionary and president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company, Charles Melville Hays, who believed the deep water, ice-free harbor at the end of rail lines on the North coast of British Columbia was destined to become a major world port and cruise center.
Tragically, the force behind this dream died when Hays went down with the Titanic in 1912, but his vision never died.
Served by what is now the Canadian National Railway system, the port has managed to attract two major shipping facilities over the years: a modern grain terminal and a highly efficient coal loading facility that the government constructed to serve the Japanese steel market.
However, the grain terminal, owned by a consortium of major grain companies, was always the terminal of second choice compared to other company-owned terminals at the Port of Vancouver and, while the government-owned coal terminal on nearby Ridley Island once moved massive amounts of coal to the Japanese market, shipments dropped to a trickle when the two massive mines in Northern BC were depleted and the contract with Japanese buyers ran out.
To say that the past decade has been one of major disappointments for the Port of Prince Rupert would be an understatement. With the slowdown in business, including closures in fisheries, the population of Prince Rupert has slowly dwindled.
Through all of this, however, visionaries remained and struggled to breathe economic life into the community.
Among several initiatives was the establishment of the Northwest Corridor Development Corporation (NCDC) in 1998 to promote the advantages of the rail corridor between Prince Rupert and Edmonton, the capital city of Alberta and Canadian National’s Western Headquarters. Naturally, this promotion included Prince Rupert’s advantages as a port. For nearly 10 years the NCDC, made up of a wide range of industry, government, and organized labor, worked tirelessly to make Hays’ dream a reality.
Fairview Terminal to provide badly needed bypassPart of that dream was the possible development of a container terminal that would be located 36 sailing hours closer to Shanghai than the Port of Vancouver, and 68 sailing hours closer to Shanghai than the Port of Los Angeles.
Port of Prince Rupert management and board members also hoped to make Hays’ vision of the northern port becoming a cruise ship center a reality.
Today, the cruise ship center is now operational and next year, with the support of Canadian National Railway, Maher Terminals and the federal and provincial governments, Fairview Terminal, the port’s first container terminal, will lift its first box.
Hays’ vision, now 100 years old, is coming true because others believed in his vision, including New Jersey-based Maher Terminals, whose executive could see North America’s transportation arteries starting to clog and wondered if Prince Rupert couldn’t provide a badly needed bypass.
“A couple of things attracted us,” Frans van Riemsdyk, senior vice president, sales & marketing, for Maher told AJOT. “The first was the deep water; the second was the ‘Great Circle Route’ location and access to Asian markets, and third was the CN system.
“When we first visited Prince Rupert we took a bit of time to drive the (CN) network to see what sort of condition it was in, and we were very, very impressed,” Riemsdyk explained.
Also, the fact that the CN network, particularly on the Edmonton-to-Prince Rupert section, has been underutilized since the drop-off in coal traffic had considerable appeal.
“The deep water and the location on the Great Circle Route have been there forever,” Riemsdyk said, “What’s changed things now are the overall market conditions.
“When you have this extraordinary growth - this tremendous push of imports to the US West Coast – with no real, subst

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American Journal of Transportation