The ability for British Columbia’s ports to handle project logistics will be a key contributor to the economic development of Western Canada. According to the Project Cargo Network “heavy lift/project cargo” is the term used to describe the national or international transportation of large, heavy, high value, or critical pieces of equipment.

Asia Pacific Gateway Project Cargo

Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) serves as an important competitive gateway for project cargo bound for western Canadian resource projects most notably steel and machinery.

From a transport infrastructure perspective, PMV facilities offer access to extensive road connections, as well as established corridors for overweight and over dimensional project cargoes. CN and CP railways service on-dock rail facilities provide service to key destinations across North America. BNSF and Southern Railway of British Columbia (SRY) links further enhance these networks.

For marine traffic, the port offers flexibility cargo handling options and reliable and efficient vessel loading and discharging services. For project cargo interests there are two main options within the Lower Mainland. Fraser Surrey Docks is a multi-purpose marine terminal handling among other items general cargo, logs, steel, and machinery. Vancouver harbour’s Lynnterm Terminal remains a consolidation centre for forest products, steel and other break-bulk commodities. It handles steel products, project cargo, and machinery.

Challenging Vancouver as a project cargo gateway is the Prince Rupert Port Authority. Port officials believe that their port is well positioned to provide a Canadian gateway solution for project cargo destined for Western Canada.

Prince Rupert’s re-entry into the break-bulk and project cargo business took a major step forward in early 2015 with a joint venture between Tidal Transport and the Coast Tsimshian First Nation. The project cargo operation will involve lightering cargo from a ship into a typical 7,000-tonne barge and then onto a roll-on roll-off ramp operation located on Ridley Island where unloading operations are not impacted by Prince Rupert large tidal range. The site provides a 2.6 hectare (6.5 acres) laydown area. The site provides access to the CN rail network and the Trans Canada Highway 16. As such, the Port of Prince Rupert offers attractive rail and road access to shippers transporting steel, machinery, modules and oversized cargo.

Project cargo interests on Vancouver Island are primarily using the facilities of the Nanaimo Port Authority (NPA). Working with its partner DP World, the NPA pursue the loading of diversified commodities. The types of project cargo operations using either the Nanaimo Assembly Wharf or the Duke Point Terminals include barge loading (Steel), pipe and modules.  However, a new mobile heavy lift crane provides new cargo opportunities. The Liebherr 500 Mobile Harbour Crane arrived July 25‎ and will be operational later this year. The 51 meters crane has 104 Metric Tonne lift capacity.

With the potential project cargo associated with energy sector developments, observers may also wonder whether the British Columbia maritime marketplace has the depth of services to support traffic growth.

A couple of shipping services represent newer entrants to the British Columbia project cargo market. One example is Austral Asia Line (AAL). AAL’s owned heavy lift, multipurpose vessels and chartered-in external tonnage and undertakes voyages to a vast number of ports around the world – transporting high-value cargoes for industries including oil & gas, construction, wind energy, agriculture and leisure. On September 18, 2015, the Vancouver International Maritime Center announced that AAL was the first success in attracting global shipping companies to locate offices in Vancouver.

British Columbian Anthony Utley, owner of Raven Marine Yacht Services in Sidney, has added to his marine business portfolio by creating Raven Offshore Shipping Lines, Ltd. Raven Offshore is 100% First Nations owned and is one of the very few only wholly aboriginal owned firms providing ocean transport services. Since forming on May 2, 2013, they have competed their 24th charter involving a British Columbia port including Nanaimo, Chemainus, Victoria and Squamish and Vancouver.

Heavy Haul Corridor 125 tonne corridor

The province of British Columbia is working with industry to expand the number of provincial highway corridors pre-approved for the transport of 85 to 125-metric-tonne loads. The following routes are of primary interest:  Lower Mainland to the British Columbia/Alberta border via Highways 1, 5, and 16; and Prince Rupert to the British Columbia border via Highway 16.

LNG Sector Development

While the British Columbia maritime and transport sectors have infrastructure and services in place to handle project cargo perhaps one of the biggest expectation that is being addressed by industry participants is on how to effectively collaborate. The new project management “norm” is one that balances economic factors with planning and efficiency. As a result, the world of project logistics is seeing increasing interest by stakeholders and engineering companies in developing tightened economic models, which are growing in importance in our present lower priced commodity markets.

British Columbia’s maritime and logistics professionals in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector are at the forefront of addressing these new pressures and challenges. In the LNG industry due to the specialized nature of a facility, it is anticipated that many materials for project construction would come from outside the country. One large land-based BC project proponent estimates that thirty-two percent of the labour, goods, and services required for engineering, purchasing, construction and commissioning would be from Canadian sources, leaving the remainder sixty-eight percent needing to come from other locations.


British Columbia’s collaborative approach is essential to meeting industry’s big expectations. With this thought in mind, it is necessary for LNG and other large project cargo proponents to include maritime logistics expertise and factor in transportation considerations in the front end engineering and design stages of the project. However, such an integrated approach is perhaps most at risk in the early stages of joint venture initiatives where the various parties may not have finalized the respective roles and responsibilities until a much later stage of the development process.

Readers are invited to download the full article written by Darryl Anderson, Wave Point Consulting and Mike Weiner JAS Projects in the November 2015 issue of BC Shipping News.