Despite uneven cargo numbers for 2016 and a flat lining global economy, the Port of Vancouver has demonstrated resilience in the face of economic volatility and a tumultuous year for major shipping lines. For this, the port has been recognized as one of five leading international shipping centres in Deloitte’s EU Shipping Competitiveness Study which provides data on the looming competitive threats to the European Union’s ports and recommendations on how to retain and expand market share. Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority pointed out that, despite global economic downturns, the port’s ability to handle a wide range of imports and exports has helped it record its fourth consecutive year of cargo volumes of more than 135 million tonnes. Vancouver now must set its sights towards new markets to ensure that we do not fall behind on our path to sustainable economic growth.
According to the Menon Economics’ 2017 Leading Maritime Capitals of the World report, apart from No. 1-ranked Singapore, “no city has a more attractive policy framework than Vancouver” for aspiring international maritime centres. Aside from its political stability and attractive business environment, Vancouver has a strategic Pacific Rim location, ambitious expansion plans and a clear aspiration to become a global maritime HQ/management center. It’s time Vancouver seriously begin to look at developing lasting trade partnerships with new markets as “the future of global shipping is tied to Asia’s resource demands, and Vancouver offers the closest and most diversified port in the North American market” says executive director Kaity Arsoniadis-Stein, Vancouver International Maritime Centre.
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has outlined a massive expansion plan to ensure port viability and an increase in throughput capacity. Port Metro Vancouver and its partners are leveraging and extending provincial and federal funding for a generational investment in supply-chain infrastructure improvements. Many projects are either in the planning stage or implementation phase but once complete, will provide the infrastructure to handle the lion’s share of a forecasted rise in overall marine traffic volumes, maximizing trade growth and GDP for B.C. and Canada. Components in the Port’s expansion provide the opportunity to grapple the challenge of a rising tide in container traffic. The proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project in Delta would potentially add 2.4 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to local container capacity and a proposed $1.7 billion deep-water port in Port Alberni, would potentially increase Canada’s gross domestic product by $21.3 billion and reduce commuting time through the George Massey Tunnel by 98,750 hours annually according to a pre-feasibility study.
B.C. has the resources to be a major global trade partner to new markets. Sights on Asia’s giant economy cannot be ignored as much of global shipping is tied to its resource demands. Today, B.C. ports are shipping increasing amounts of coal to Asia, including American coal, for steel production and power generation and with the Port of Vancouver’s expansion projects underway, it would make it the largest coal exporting port in North America. We have a unique opportunity to leverage the many advantages we hold in today’s international trade environment: an attractive business environment, strategic location, favourable policy framework, attractive living conditions and a price advantage over our U.S. counterparts. By establishing B.C.’s shipping industry as one of the world’s top maritime capitals, we can solidify a strong economic future for all British Columbians while propelling B.C.’s capacity as a leading global trading partner.
As marine traffic volumes are expected to rise over the coming years, it’s important that B.C. take a firm stance on establishing a world-leading safety response program to ensure that our coastal environment is well protected. Significant investment is needed both provincially and federally to drive B.C. to be an international champion in tanker safety. Initiatives like the Trans Mountain $200 million oil spill response upgrades or the $1.5 billion federal ocean protection plan are the types of investments needed to ensure that B.C. retains the highest quality of shipping safety and response measures which will allow for significant economic growth while maintaining sustainable environmental protection.
All this to say that B.C. is undoubtedly in a position to benefit from the prospect of new trading partners and an expanded port infrastructure. It is more important than ever, as the international trade environment becomes more uncertain, that B.C. and Canada take every step necessary to ensure our economy’s movement forward and long-lasting prosperity for all Canadians.