Port of Vancouver pressed on its Roberts Bank Terminal 2 plans at AGM


Port terminal operators on the south shore of Burrard Inlet want the Port of Vancouver to tell them what its plan is for their part of the harbour, if a federal environmental review rejects the $3.5 billion Roberts Bank Terminal 2 proposal.

“Can the port confirm if it has a plan for the south shore that will affect existing tenants and operators?” was the question a spokesman for the group of operators asked at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority annual general meeting, to which executives didn’t offer a direct answer.

Port authority CEO Robin Silvester said he remains confident that Roberts Bank Terminal 2 “can be approved and will be approved,” but until it is, “it’s really important that we preserve the opportunities to create new capacity for Canada’s international trade.”

In the long run, however, that priority “may mean though, that not every activity that has historically been on the scarce waterfront lands that we have can remain there,” said Peter Xotta, the port’s vice-president for planning and operations.

The question was raised by a group of tenants including CN and CP Rail, grain elevators and West Coast Reduction.

For months, West Coast Reduction has been publicly pressuring the Port of Vancouver for a commitment to a five-year extension of its lease fro the 2.5-hectare site where it has operated an animal-waste rendering plant since 1964.

In recent years, more of the rendering plant’s output has gone into feedstock for biofuels and the company has seen expanding interest in canola exports from a facility it also operates.

In February, Silvester told Postmedia that managing trade through the port is “a complex balance,” that is compounded by increasing pressures on the facility’s finite industrial land base.

On Tuesday, the port’s message wasn’t substantially different as the port authority fielded questions about its plans for the south shore, whether there would be community consultations on any land-use changes on the south shore and environmental concerns over the Terminal 2 project.

On the environmental front, opponents suggested container expansions in Vancouver’s inner harbour and at the Port of Prince Rupert would be better options to accommodate growth in container traffic on the West Coast than building a new, artificial island in the fragile Fraser River estuary.

A decision based on a review of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, which replaced the Environmental Assessment Agency, was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It completed its report last fall, but Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson’s office sent it back for more information, which the port authority aims to provide by this summer.

On Tuesday, the port’s vice-president of infrastructure, Cliff Stewart, maintained that the Terminal 2 proposal would be built in deep water away from intertidal habitats an it would “fully mitigate” impacts from both construction and operations of the facility.

This article originally titled Port of Vancouver pressed on its plans for inner harbour written by Derrick Penner was originally published in the Vancouver Sun on June 2, 2021. 

Watch: A Fair Game for Canada