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Prince Rupert to expand port’s container cargo capacity

Fairview Terminal operator committed to $200 million project that will increase capacity 60%
Maher Terminals plans to invest $200 million in expanding the container handling capacity of its Fairview Container Terminal in Prince Rupert | Port of Prince Rupert

The Port of Prince Rupert will increase its container cargo handling capacity by approximately 60% following today’s announcement that the owner of its Fairview Container Terminal will proceed with a $200 million expansion of the seven-year-old facility.

The expansion decision is based in part on what the port sees as the growing demand for container cargo shipments through ports along North America’s West Coast. The flow of container traffic through Prince Rupert and Port Metro Vancouver was also significantly increased during the past eight months as major global container shipping lines diverted vessels to Canadian ports and those along the eastern seaboard to avoid delays caused by the longshore labour dispute at West Coast U.S. ports.

Gary Cross, president and CEO of Maher Terminals Holding Corp., Fairview’s operator, said the new two-berth, eight-crane expanded terminal will assure “ocean carriers and beneficial cargo owners alike that the Prince Rupert gateway will continue to flourish as a premium service provider by remaining comfortably ahead of demand.”

The expanded terminal, which is scheduled to be completed in mid-2017, will add an estimated 150 full-time equivalent positions to Fairview’s 250 FTE workforce.

Don Krusel, president and CEO of the Prince Rupert Port Authority, said that “for a community the size of Prince Rupert, the success of the Fairview terminal and additional employment prospects it brings to the community is extremely significant.”

Added Prince Rupert mayor Lee Brain: “We look at ourselves as the host city to the industries that are coming to our region, and we’d like to continue to help facilitate this type of growth. We are very excited about the port’s expansion and Maher Terminals making the investment. It’s a good time for Prince Rupert.”

Prince Rupert, however, remains a relatively small player in the US$4 trillion global container cargo trade. The port, which has a maximum annual capacity of 850,000 TEUs (20-foot-equivalent), handled approximately 640,000 last year, up 15% from 2013; the Fairview expansion will increase its capacity to 1.3 million TEUs. Port Metro Vancouver handled 2.9 million TEUs in 2014. Main containerized imports through Prince Rupert include clothing, furniture, electronics and building materials; main containerized exports are lumber, pulp and agri-food products.

The expansion of the port’s container terminal will be good news for the Port of Prince Rupert as bulk shipments of coal and logs were down significantly in 2014.

Krusel said container shipping is “definitely the future” of what he said is the fastest growing container terminal in North America “because it has been a consistent performer for us,” but he added that bulk shipments of grain through the port also had a record year in 2014. Krusel said the port also has a new bulk handling facility for wood pellets that’s growing rapidly.

“Coal is the only business sector that has shown a slowdown.”

But he added that the port has plans for expansion of its coal-handling facilities in anticipation of that commodity's marketplace recovery.

Meanwhile, Michael Gurney, Prince Rupert Port Authority’s manager of communications, said the port is still awaiting word on a final investment decision from Canpotex on its proposed $775 million proposed potash export terminal at Prince Rupert.