Port of Prince Rupert ready for predicted increase in commodity shipments
Prince George, B.C. – Is British Columbia ready for a predicted growth in commodity shipments over the next decade?
A new Conference Board of Canada report predicts the annual tonnage of commodities shipped by rail will rise 30% from 200 million tonnes in 2011 to 260 million tonnes by 2025.
Wheat, forest products and energy (oil) are expected to drive the growth and could put pressure on Canada’s railways and ports.
Michael Gurney, manager of corporate communications with the Port of Prince Rupert, says bring it on.
“Well, I think that this report really illustrates the value of the long term planning that the Port of Prince Rupert began several years ago with the release of our Gateway 20/20 vision and the associated planning process that led to ongoing expansion of capacity and infrastructure upgrades here.”
For example he says they are currently in the middle of an expansion of the port’s container terminal (which will boost capacity by another 500,000 containers) while terminal operator DP World is also considering an expansion.:
“Which would boost the overall capacity annually of the terminal to over 2 million containers per year. So that is definitely forward looking planning as we anticipate increases in capacity.”
But is Prince George ready to handle the extra traffic considering it has a very active CN rail line? The question hasn’t gone unnoticed by Prince George City Councillor and Federation of Canadian Municipalities Board member Garth Frizzell.
“It isn’t unexpected that the numbers are going up like this but the volume was something of a surprise,” he says. “But when you’re seeing that amount of growth it was a bit reassuring to see they weren’t forecasting all that to be in transportation of energy which would mean transport of oil by rail.”
(The report shows the biggest increases coming to B.C. will be largely in agricultural products).
However he says the issue is still timely considering it was just last month City Council was looking at a report into the City’s rail yard and emergency preparedness.
“We have to protect our water source, because of course the CN Lines go right next to where the central wells for all of Prince George are. And if you’ve got growth from rail traffic that growth is a concern for us.
“This is why we have to methodically and systemically follow the recommendations of the report (see previous story here). And that’s going to include working with railway companies as well.”
Frizzell says the FCM’s National Municipal Rail Safety Working Group has also been busy lobbying the federal government about rail safety ever since the tragedy at Lac-Megantic.
“First responders are going to get information on the dangerous goods on rail – before that we didn’t have that same guarantee.”
In addition to that, he says Transport Canada is now requiring all railway companies phase out about 5,000 older tank cars due to safety concerns.
“So there have been immediate reactions and results that have been generated by municipalities and that’s reassuring.”