PAPA Pursuing Container Trans Shipment Teminal

A number of presentations have been made by the Port Authority to a variety of community groups, industry stakeholders and this newspaper even did a previous thumbnail sketch of the Port’s priority long term initiative: the development of a Container Trans Shipment and Short Sea Shipping Terminal.  By no means will this happen overnight.  Nor will it be stopped by “gut reaction” critics overnight.  In fact, our experience to date is much to the contrary.  While initial explanations outlined to industry experts are met with varying degrees of skepticism; after a period of time feedback is that the concept makes logical sense.  The Port is now concentrating on conducting a Feasibility Study to demonstrate that it makes economic sense.
So, what is a Container Trans Shipment and Short Sea Shipping Terminal? The basic premise of such an operation is to attract a significant percentage of the approximately 20 Million TEUs (twenty foot equivalent unit containers) – and growing annually – sailing within reach of the Alberni Inlet along the Great Northern Pacific Sailing Route destined to Vancouver, Seattle-Tacoma, Portland, LA-Long Beach and points in between.  Ships’ containers would be offloaded in the Alberni Inlet at a new, modern terminal facility, sorted and barged directly to their specific distribution hubs in the Fraser River, for example, or directly to the next transportation mode, such as rail, in the logistics chain. Let’s not also forget the great sense it makes to receive cargo from Asia on Vancouver Island for Vancouver Island destinations as the population of “our little island” is projected to rapidly increase towards 1 million residents! We’re accustomed to thinking of our economy as an exporter but the trade balance has and will continue to shift.
So, why does a Container Trans Shipment and Short Sea Shipping Terminal make sense?  Although the Port is working towards conducting an objective, third party Feasibility Study, the concept has gained interest and traction among politicians and industry stakeholders because of the basic logic involved. All one needs to do is look at 3 things to begin to understand the rationale behind this concept for the Alberni Inlet:
1.      Container ship unloading backlog in Vancouver (and other ports)
2.      Distribution hubs, including rail and road connections are inland from lower mainland ports along Fraser River
3.      Increasingly congested road network
Each of these issues lead to increasing cargo delivery delays.  In the shipping world – as much, if not more than any other industry – time is money.  So, the concept that the Port will be testing through a feasibility study is to offer large cargo shippers an alternative port within the Asia Pacific Gateway Canada Initiative to better deliver ship containers just when needed, just where needed. This concept also reduces the massive physical toll on road infrastructure and the environment.
The Port so far has built this concept on the foundation of providing increased efficiencies throughout and to the benefit of all ports in the Gateway.  This is not a competitive model designed to cannibalize other Gateway ports’ business but rather enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Gateway throughout and for the benefit of all the involved ports.  Therefore, the expectation is that the Feasibility Study will demonstrate how the Port Alberni Port Authority can increase its contribution to the economic vitality of the region, province and country through becoming an important piece of the Gateway initiative.  The development of a Container Trans Shipment and Short Sea Shipping Terminal will help solidify this role.