GCT responds to Journal of Commerce questions on West Coast container capacity and expansion projects


In a recent email exchange with Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor for the Journal of Commerce, GCT’s Marko Dekovic provided the following information on West Coast container capacity and the Port of Vancouver’s flawed forecasting and unneeded expansion plans:

The fact is, the Port of Vancouver’s statements around capacity requirements on the West Coast of Canada continue to be misleading and unproductive to our customer relations and those looking to move their goods through Canadian ports. For over a decade, the Port of Vancouver’s CEO has been claiming that a container capacity issue is just around the corner, but we have turned many corners since. There is over a million TEUs of excess capacity on the West Coast of Canada right now, not accounting for the additional 1.2 Mullion TEU that is in construction and will be online in the next 3 years. What we do need is investments in off terminal infrastructure to provide resiliency to the supply chain. As we have witnessed this year, blockades, fires and floods can cut off all terminals in the Port of Vancouver from rail and trucking supply. The Port of Vancouver could have had build five Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2), and all would have been cut off from the supply chain and sat idle. Simply put, RBT2 is a solution to a problem that does not exist.

Regarding 2021 statistics, the Port of Vancouver’s own “Container Traffic Report” indicates a 2% decrease in laden TEU volumes and a massive increase in empty container exports. This indicates the imbalance in the supply chain created by the impacts of multiple disruptions globally with port shutdowns and congestion driven by adaptations in consumer and government behavior driven by the global pandemic. Furthermore, Port of Vancouver statistics also show a 9% decrease in container vessel traffic, which indicates that more volume is being moved by fewer, larger ships. This confirms what GCT and other terminal operators have been saying all along: the Port of Vancouver’s RBT2 project is the wrong solution. RBT2 will essentially provide more parking spaces for less cars coming to the parking lot. The Port of Vancouver needs to reflect on what its core mandate is, and how they can truly help address supply chain challenges collaboratively with industry. 

Canadian institutional investors are assessing the market and are planning smart, appropriate investments in the capacity both here at GCT Deltaport with the Deltaport Berth 4 (DP4) project, and in Prince Rupert DP World Fairview terminal to meet market demands. We continue to advocate that for meaningful impact, federal government money should be used to address challenges with critical, common-user infrastructure inland that supports the resiliency of the entire Canadian supply chain across modes, instead of on the Port of Vancouver’s RBT2 project which will create some of the most expensive container capacity ever built. 

Lastly, if indeed the Port of Vancouver is concerned with bringing on timely and competitive capacity, they need to get behind GCT and our DP4 project. DP4 will be quickest to market due to its smaller footprint and thus shorter construction timeline, despite DP4 project being further behind in the environmental assessment process.

The Pacific Gateway has done an exceptional job of handling pandemic-driven surge volumes, thanks to incremental, smart, market-driven investments by terminal operators made over the years and the hard work of the essential supply chain workers. This is the message we should be focused on as Port leaders – our gateway and terminals continue to be a high-performing choice for customers.

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