Problems at the Port of Vancouver

The Port of Vancouver’s current expansion proposal, Terminal 2 at Roberts Bank, is a short term solution, well short of Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s objective of “meeting the Country’s needs at the port for decades to come.”  It also sets a new record for spending: more than $3 billion.  Many other major issues are also not resolved including: 

  • Huge supply chain inefficiencies particularly in the movement of grain from the prairies to the holds of ships.  Ships are at anchor, waiting for grain at the terminals or the terminals are waiting for grain from the hopper cars or the hopper cars are waiting for staff at the terminals.  Or the terminals on the prairies are waiting for hopper cars.  In the 2019 grain year it took a remarkable 42.9 days to move that grain to the ships – 85% of that time it was in storage and not moving at all.  Our proposal reduces this inefficiency by at least 75%.
  • Large and growing numbers of railcars traversing the inner city through level crossings and interrupting vehicle traffic.  Resolving this issue is estimated to cost $3.5 billion.
  • Increasingly large ships which cannot clear the Lions Gate bridge and have increasing limitations to manoeuver in  the Fraser River.
  • A host of other inefficiencies because of a lack of reasonably priced real estate.  Jervis has plenty of cheap real estate as we shall demonstrate.
  • Finally, the current port operates in the midst of Canada’s third largest city.  The port is often noisy and the lights can be on at all hours.  The relative isolation of Jervis will resolve such conflicts.

All of these issues have been noted repeatedly in the Port of Vancouver’s  annual reports as major problems.

Our proposed port on Jervis Inlet resolves most if not all of them.

Jervis Inlet: How to Get There

Ocean access to the proposed port expansion is as shown on the map at right. From the Strait of Juan de Fuca, enter Haro Strait to Boundary Passage, then the Strait of Georgia just east of Saturna Island (48o 50’ N X 123o W). Proceed about 113 km to Jervis Inlet (49o31’ N X 124o 14’ W).

St. Vincent Bay (the prime potential port location) is about 15 km up the Inlet on the left. Vancouver Bay (the second location, which would be dedicated to liquid bulk cargo) is an additional 15 km, on the right.

Land access: Kamloops is the main hub of the BC interior transportation system. The CNR, CPR and Trans Canada highway all converge there, as do Trans Mountain and Enbridge nearby. From Kamloops it’s not far to Lillooet and a connection with CN’s line (from Prince George) and Highway 99 (the Duffey Lake Road) to Pemberton and points south.

The new transportation corridor will begin south of Whistler near the Squamish River, proceeding west along that river, then follow the Ashlu River to a summit (1331 m) before descending the Vancouver River to Vancouver Bay, site of the secondary port that will serve liquid bulk cargo.  The corridor then crosses Jervis Inlet via a 1900 m span suspension bridge and descend the west shore of Hotham Sound to St. Vincent Bay, site of the primary port.

A short connecting road to Saltery Bay will access Powell River’s hospital, schools and urban amenities. Details of the transportation corridor are at Appendix 5.

The major impacts to the Port of Vancouver

Our project would move a large portion of the Port of Vancouver – Canada’s largest and most diversified – to Jervis Inlet, about 40 knots (90 km) north of Vancouver. This move will have huge positive impacts on the west coast and the entire country and the financial benefits outstrip the costs by a ratio of over three to one – costs, $10 billion; benefits $35 billion. The details are clearly laid out in this website. Click here.

Land is the key issue – Vancouver is out of reasonably priced land.  Jervis Inlet (JI) has 2400 hectares, more than double Vancouver’s 1000 — and has additional space for future expansion at two locations.

The major moves in our proposal will also:

  • Move the container terminals and their huge space demands to St. Vincent Bay on Jervis Inlet. That will open 60 hectares (148 acres) on Burrard Inlet alone. At $10 million per acre that’s $1.48 billion.  A portion of the 65 hectares at Fraser Surrey Docks will add to that.
  • With Deltaport moving to JP, their 85 Ha (210 acres) will easily accommodate Neptune Terminals’ 71 acres and further eliminate heavy rail traffic from the city core. Again, at $10 million per acre, the Neptune property could garner an additional $710 million, bringing the potential proceeds from land to $2.19 billion and we are still counting.
  • Burrard Inlet’s six grain terminals also sit on valuable inner city land. Rail traffic to and from them creates huge congestion that experts estimate will require $3.5 billion to remedy. All this can be relieved by moving them to Jervis Inlet. We are currently working on calculating the benefits of this activity.
  • Finally, the automobile terminal also requires large space, and we have plenty of that at JI.

The benefits of port facilities at Jervis become obvious.  Plenty of space for decades to come, isolation from neighbours, cheaper land at both the proposed port and the staging areas near Kamloops and Ashcroft add up to increased supply chain efficiencies as identified in the balance of this presentation.

The current Port of Vancouver consists of five geographic areas, serving 28 major terminals with 69 berths having an average length of 215 m, a total of 14.8 km. Its shoreside real property is about 1000 hectares.

The five areas and their terminals are,

  • City of Vancouver – 8 terminals – Alliance (grain), Ballantyne (mixed), Cascadia (grain), Canada Place (cruise ships), Centerm (Containers),  Lantic (sugar), Vanterm (containers) and Viterra Pacific (grain).
  • City of North Vancouver – 8 terminals – Cargill (grain), Fibreco (Bulk wood chips), Lynnterm East and West Gate  (mostly breakbulk), Univar (chemicals).
  • Port Moody and area – 7 petroleum terminals – Chemtrade, Chevron, IOCO, Trans Mountain (Westridge), Pacific Coast, Shellburn and Suncor.
  • Roberts Bank 2 terminals – Deltaport (containers) and Westshore (coal – from the USA).
  • Fraser River 3 terminals – Fraser Surrey Docks (containers and other), Lehigh Cement (cement) and WWL Vehicle Services (automobiles).

Additionally, to accommodate ships arriving at the Port prior to the appropriate berth being available, the port also provides 18 anchorages in the outer harbour; 10 in the inner; and another 18 in the Gulf Islands. (The anchorages among the islands are the cause of considerable local controversy. Taken together, these anchorages are clear indications of what the Port’s customers would perceive as inefficiencies in the supply chain that count against the Port’s competitiveness).

Within the port vicinity there is also a network of container handling and warehousing facilities that support major importers and exporters. Most are on the Fraser River.

CN and CP have extensive trans-loading facilities in Surrey and Coquitlam.  Three class 1 railroads (including BNSF) serve five business sectors:

  • Automobiles – 400,000 vehicles annually at two terminals
  • Break-bulk and project cargo, such as forest products, steel and machinery
  • Bulk (dry and liquid) – 19 terminals
  • Container – 20% of the port’s tonnage at four terminals, nearly three million twenty- tonne equivalent units (TEUs) per year
  • Cruise ships – approaching 1,000,000 passengers per year

The Port receives slightly more than 3,100 vessel calls annually.

There has been no pipeline capacity added in southwest BC in years.

Vancouver’s Port Lands – A higher and better use

The 149 acres in Vancouver is extremely valuable, approximately $10 million per acre according to senior real estate professionals with whom we have consulted. That comes to $1.49 billion of land value that would become available for redevelopment to a higher and better use. Those same realty professionals have indicated that this premium Vancouver waterfront property would be better used as prime commercial and residential high rise property, likely having major construction costs. Thus, each of those 149 acres would have a huge assessable  value that would add richly to city tax rolls when compared to the “Grants in lieu of taxes” currently received from the federal government.

Global Container Treminals and DP World would have to incur the cost of relocating to St. Vincent Bay but would gain with increased efficiencies and additional room for the future and operating flexibility offered from the staging areas at reasonably nearby and climatically desirable Ashcroft.

The Port of Vancouver’s never ending search for adequate land would be over and the port boundaries would be extended to include Jervis Inlet and its existing conflicts of interest would be resolved.

The 220 acres at Roberts Bank would remain as part of the Port of Vancouver and be available for a realignment of other terminal properties.  The controversial and hugely expensive RBT2 would not be required. Savings, $3 billion!

Moving the grain terminals involves:

 Capacity (tonnes)
Alliance Grain Terminal, Vancouver102,070
Cargill, North Vancouver240,000
Cascadia, Vancouver Viterra)282,830
Pacific Terminal (Viterra), Vancouver199,000
Richardson, International, North Van178
Fraser Surrey Docks18,000
Total capacity1,214,900

Removing the grain terminals from the cities of Vancouver and North Vancouver will free up many additional acres of real estate for higher use development.  The economics of redevelopment will be similar to the Vancouver container terminal property.  For details, click here. 

Moving the automobile terminals involves only WWL Vehicle Services on 103 acres in Delta.  The 103 acres on Annacis Island would not be required by the Port Authority.   

Moving the heavy bulk and breakbulk terminals to Roberts bank or Jervis Inlet:

Canexus ChemicalsSea salt, Caustic soda
Fibreco, North VancouverWood chips and pellets
Kinder Morgan Vancouver
Wharves, North VancouverConcentrates, distillates & dry bulk
Lantic, VancouverBulk sugar
Lynnterm (east and west), NorthVancouverVarious bulk & breakbulk
Neptune Terminals71Potash and coal (some grain)
Pacific Coast, Port MoodySulphur, ethelene glycol & Canola oil
Univar, North VancouverChemicals
West Coast ReductionVarious meals and vegetable oils

Whether the foregoing moves are to Roberts Bank or Jervis Inlet requires further study, but some observations are in order:

  • Neptune handles coal, largely from southwest BC.  Receiving that product at Roberts Bank would reduce considerably the number of railcars entering the city and the congestion they would otherwise create, thereby improve efficiencies.  Similarly potash — redirecting potash to Roberts Bank would have the same effect.  That portion of Neptune’s throughput would be improved at Robert’s Bank.  Neptune currently occupies 71 acres at North Vancouver.  A portion of the Roberts Bank’s 220 available acres (formerly Deltaport) can then be dedicated to Neptune.
  • Additional study and consultation is required is required to make determinations.