Calgary Herald Editor:
I am floored. This column, Trade growth on the Prairies linked to Port of Vancouver expansion, is so rife with laughably bad takes that I don’t understand how the Canada West Foundation could possibly have penned it.
- A simple Google search would effectively put an end to the idea that there is “broad agreement” that both Vancouver and Prince Rupert will run out of container terminal capacity. In fact, there was nearly 2 million TEU’s of excess container terminal capacity last year at our Gateway. It is not terminal capacity that is creating bottlenecks but insufficient RAIL supply to support the existing terminal capacity. Where investment is needed is in rail resiliency and capacity to service the expanded terminals on the West Coast that have already been built. The Canada West Foundation should know this.
- How could container ship capacity issues be causing back-ups for grain, potash, oil and lumber transportation when these commodities are not shipped on container ships but on bulk carriers? And there is really no connection: container ships call at different terminals then bulk carriers. They even use different rail cars. How could the Canada West Foundation not know this?
- We are told that the Roberts Bank container project is “funded by the port authority and private investment.” There is absolutely ZERO private investment in RBT2 thus far – they have not been able to find a terminal operator. And no wonder, their business case is very flawed (see above). Again, where is the Canada West Foundation getting its information?
- We read that “the new terminal will be able to accommodate larger ships and larger containers which will reduce the need to greatly increase ship traffic.” Sorry, wrong again. All containers are a standardized units – there will be no “larger” containers if Port’s RBT2 project gets approved. And, of course there will be increased ship traffic! Otherwise why would they be building that massive, artificial container terminal island in the ecologically sensitive Salish Sea for?
- We read that the Canada West Foundation is concerned about adverse environmental effects only to see them smoothly dismiss these concerns with a statement that “the Port has worked to reduce those impacts, incorporating Indigenous knowledge and other research to find new solutions.” The fact is that as recently as late October 2022, Environment and Climate Change Canada reiterated that, despite the Port’s attempts at mitigation, “the changes predicted as a result of the Project would likely constitute an unmitigable species-level risk to Western Sandpipers, and shorebirds more generally.” Small wonder that this project has created grave concerns among environmental groups and deep unease and distress in many First Nations and Indigenous communities in British Columbia.
The CWF does get something right in this article: it is Cabinet’s job is to make a decision in the national interest. We suggest, in the very strongest terms, that approving the Port’s flawed plan is not in the public interest by any measure. The environmental concerns outlined above should by themselves be disqualifying. But there are other concerns too. The project’s sliding timelines and ballooning costs (now estimated at $3.5B); its current financial model (which would require the borrowing of huge amounts of capital by the port authority – borrowing which it is currently not allowed to do); that flawed business case that has resulted in the port not being able to identify even one interested terminal operator. It is hard to fathom how RBT2 could ever receive a greenlight from any Canadian government, let alone the current one.
Vice President, Public Affairs
GCT Global Container Terminals Inc.