Volume 11 | Issue 3 | Year 2008

Prince Rupert’s history is a remarkable story, beginning with the founder of Prince Rupert and visionary for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, Charles Hays. In 1905, the American-born Hays was tasked with creating a new silk trade route from Asia to Europe. Recognizing that the southern route to Vancouver was already established, Haysknew that the northern route had to be more competitive to attract shipping traffic. He located Prince Rupert, a deep and safe harbor in British Columbia that was closer to Asia than other West Coast ports, then planned a northern rail line from Winnipeg that would be straighter, less hazardous and the least grade across the Rocky Mountains.
The rail line was near completion when Hays traveled to London, England in 1912 to raise the last of the financing he required. Hays was successful in raising the capital, but unfortunately went down with the Titanic on his return trip and never saw his Grand Trunk Pacific Railway completed in 1914, or his new silk trade route dream fulfilled.

Almost 100 years later, Prince Rupert, the closest port and trade corridor in North America to China, is now simply in the right place at the right time in history. Its remoteness and connection to our rail corridor to the Midwest through some of the most sparsely populated regions of the continent provides a seamless and direct routing for goods to central North America.

Prince Rupert offers a number of other important strategic advantages:
• closer to Asia than other West Coast ports by up to three days;
• deepest natural harbor in North America;
• safe, sheltered & efficient access to international shipping lanes;
• significant port capacity to expand;
• ample industrial land available for development;
• exceptional community & labor support.

The $C170 million 500,000 TEU (20-foot equivalent units) Fairview container terminal, with funding support from the governments of British Columbia and Canada, was completed on budget and on time in fall 2007. Terminal design and operations planning was a collaborative effort between the Prince Rupert Port Authority, CN Rail and Maher Terminals to ensure the needs of each partner and their customers are reflected to maximize the efficiency of the terminal.

The terminal is one of the first dedicated intermodal terminals in North America and essentially eliminates truck activity on the terminal, permitting direct interface between the container vessel and the rail line. Containers are moved between the rail cars spotted on nearly 20,000 feet of intermodal trackage and vessel located less than 200 yards away. The terminal features three ultra-post-panamax gantry cranes with a 22-container reach, and a fleet of reach stackers. With a berth depth of 62 feet at low tide, the terminal has been designed to accommodate the largest container vessels.

The Fairview container terminal also effectively incorporates post 9/11 security standards and systems in the terminal design, including 100 percent of all inbound and outbound containers. They undergo radiation scanning as well as 100 percent VACCIS X-ray screening by U.S border security.

We believe these collaborative efforts and investments, and the new injection of meaningful port-rail-terminal capacity into the global supply chain, has created the fastest, most efficient and most dependable intermodal system to move containers between Asia and the heartlands of North America.

The arrival of the COSCO Antwerp last Oct. 31, one of nine 5,400 TEU vessels that is calling on Prince Rupert as part of the CKYH Alliance’s Pacific North West Butterfly Loop, opened the first new Asia-North America trade corridor in 100 years. The Alliance also includes Hanjin, K-Line and Yang Ming shipping lines.

While the strategic advantages and theoretical performance looked good on paper, the true test began when the fully loaded Antwerp left Yokohama, Japan on Oct. 24 with 1,100 TEUs for Prince Rupert. Maher, with a terminal and workforce, offloaded and loaded the containers within 24 hours. On Nov. 1 the Antwerp sailed for Vancouver on schedule while the first CN container-laden train sped east to Chicago where it arrived on Nov. 5 – a new record of 91 hours rail transit ime and a remarkable 12 days after the containers left Asia.

The performance of the new express gateway has been consistent over the next 25 weekly ship calls:
• all vessels arrived & departed on schedule;
• off loading/loading 22 containers/hour;
• first train leaving Prince Rupert 16 hours after ship arrival;
• maximum two-day dwell time of containers;
• 40 percent of outbound containers are fully laden.

The downturn and uncertainties in the U.S economy is causing the decline in West Coast container volumes for the first time in 20 years. But the U.S. economy will recover and the surge in containers will regain momentum and continue to accelerate – along with the chronic congestion and gridlock that is plaguing West Coast ports.

The Port of Prince Rupert is positioning itself to take advantage of this growth. Phase 2 expansion of the Fairview container terminal will quadruple capacity to two million TEUs by 2012. A second terminal will add another two million TEUs when completed by 2020.

The Prince Rupert Port Authority is also working to complement these container terminal developments with logistics services, including warehousing, container stuffing and reloading, cold storage and short-sea shipping, which will be fully integrated into primary terminal operations. These services are essential to ensuring continued velocity, dependability and flexibility for shippers using the Prince Rupert Gateway to North America. To accommodate these services, we are developing a 1,000-acre industrial park with deepwater access that is also ideal for bulk and liquid terminals.

The Port of Prince Rupert is a partner in the Asia-Pacific Gateway & Corridor Initiative, comprised of government and industry partners to fulfill the long-term vision of British Columbia as a preferred gateway for Asia Pacific trade, with the most competitive port system on the west coast of the Americas. The goal of this initiative, through major public-private investments of C$13 billion, is to increase capacity, eliminate congestion, and streamline operations by expanding and enhancing port, rail, road and airport infrastructure.

Yes, Prince Rupert is competing with other West Coast ports for trade with Asia. But with the projected growth in container traffic by 2020 and the inevitable increase in capacity and congestion issues, we also view ourselves as part of the West Coast solution.

Don Krusel is President & CEO of the Prince Rupert Port Authority. The PRPA, with a mandate to facilitate and expand the movement of cargo and passengers through the Port of Prince Rupert, is responsible for the overall planning, development, marketing and management of the commercial port facilities within the Prince Rupert Harbour. This includes ensuring competitive, efficient and timely responses to customer needs and business opportunities. For more information, please visit: www.rupertport.com.

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