The big yellow sulphur pile at Kinder Morgan’s Vancouver Wharves 125-acre terminal provides a cheery greeting to Stanley Park tourists and serves as a sign to mariners that they are entering a powerhouse bulk cargo region. The eight marine terminals located on the north side of Vancouver’s Inner Harbour handled approximately 35 million tonnes of cargo in 2017.
In 2008, the North Shore Trade Area Study was commissioned as part of Canada’s on-going effort to support the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative. The study’s ultimate goal was to assess the transportation and infrastructure conditions to determine the transportation infrastructure improvements required to accommodate and enhance with the least social, community and environmental impacts.
The initiative catalyzed the federal-provincial, port authority and regional stakeholder collaboration required to see the projects through from inception to implementation. Peter Xotta, Vice-President, Planning, and Operations, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority observed that the development of the port’s railway model was instrumental in securing the necessary federal funding. The $283 million investments enhanced rail and port operations, improved access to terminal facilities for commercial traffic, reduced congestion on the local road network, enhanced road safety.
When the last of six North Shore Trade Area projects were completed in 2015, it marked a turning point for international trade. The upgrades laid the foundation for the North Shore Trade Area’s present unprecedented level of private sector marine terminal investment. Therefore, this article will focus on the generational infrastructure and logistics improvements positioning the area for future growth.
The review of the North Shore Trade Area logistics infrastructure reveals that the marine terminals that handle liquid and dry bulk along with grain cargoes are well positioned for growth. In large part, the increase in port throughput capacity is occurring within the existing terminal footprints and as a result of rail infrastructure upgrades. It also reaffirms the fact that rail service is essential for unlocking Canadas international maritime trade diversification opportunities. The significance of the Port of Vancouver’s rail model in helping to secure federal infrastructure funding highlights just one small facet of what is perhaps the most effective port and stakeholder collaboration process in the country.
Rail challenges experienced in late 2017 and early 2018 resulted in the Port of Vancouver suffering an 11.8% drop in grain, specialty crops and feed cargo. Industry observers will be looking to see if improvements to the existing Thornton Rail Tunnel ventilation system so that trains can pass through the tunnel more frequently (announced by the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport in late June) will also improve rail logistics fluidity to the North Shore Trade Area.
The construction of a double-tracked section between Willingdon Junction and CP Junction on the Burrard Inlet Line along with grade separations on Douglas road and Piper Avenue in Burnaby is also essential for increased rail capacity. The project would allow for the staging of trains thereby permitting more frequent Second Narrows rail bridge crossings.