Too many flaws in T2 plan for massive terminal to be built



Re: Massive Delta port expansion coming? March 9

Let’s be very clear, the Roberts Bank Container Terminal 2 project is not going to be built. 

Despite the master of spin, Robin Silvester, CEO of Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, claiming that container volumes for 2019 hit record levels, what he fails to mention is that loaded containers actually declined by 1.1 per cent year over year, compared to 2018.

VFPA eked out a growth of 2,411 containers (TEUs) only because they shipped six per cent more empty containers in 2019 than in 2018. Neither does Silvester mention that 25 per cent or more of his container volume is U.S. traffic, which is discretionary, could disappear at any minute and adds nothing to Canada’s economy. 

In fact the VFPA 11-year compound annual growth rate is languishing at around 2.6 per cent. The Port of Prince Rupert, on the other hand, is seeing record increases in container traffic, recording a 17 per cent growth in 2019 over 2018.

There simply is no business case for a second container terminal on Roberts Bank, despite how hard Silvester tries to justify adding this second container terminal. His claim that West Coast Canada ports will be full by the early or mid-2020s simply does not stand up. With expansions already well under way at three of the four Vancouver area container terminals, plus plans for large expansions at Prince Rupert, Canada will have plenty of capacity for its trading needs for years to come.

Then there is the issue of environmental damage. In trying to justify the second container terminal on Roberts Bank, Silvester argues that his partisan, non-peer-reviewed science, conducted by consultants paid for by the port, will have minimal environmental impacts. However, that is not what the independent science is showing.

A recent scientific paper published in the journal Frontiers of Marine Science supports what the Environment Canada scientists have been saying all along. This new study demonstrates that changes in water flows, temperature and salinity are what cause the marine diatoms in biofilm to become rich in fatty acids just as the western sandpipers arrive on Roberts Bank during their northward migration. The port has always denied this.

Yet this salinity oscillation is exactly why the Environment Canada scientists have serious concerns with the man-made island for this second container terminal. Environment Canada has said all along that this second container terminal will result in significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be mitigated. The independent science proves that their concerns are justified.

Since as early as 2005 Environment Canada has been saying that any further port expansion on Roberts Bank is likely to break the chain of the Pacific Flyway, with huge implications for the millions of migratory and other shorebirds that rely on Roberts Bank as an essential food source.

So not only does the independent science demonstrate that Roberts Bank Terminal 2 must never be built, neither is there a business case.

I am confident that when the environment minister receives the panel’s report he will do the right thing and say no to T2.

Roger Emsley

This article by Roger Emsley appeared in the Delta Optimist on March 20, 2020.