Against Port Expansion in the Fraser Estuary BC
APE (Against Port Expansion in the Fraser Estuary BC) is a group of concerned citizens who recognize that plans for container terminal expansion on Roberts Bank (T2) will see the degradation of the quality of life for thousands of Lower Mainland residents; the industrialization of prime agricultural land; and the loss of globally-significant habitat for salmon, migrating birds and orca whales.
PMV Has Its Hands Out for Taxpayer Funds
When Global News ran its piece on Jan. 14 about the Minister of Transport's visit to Vancouver, there was little detail on exactly what it was that Port Metro Vancouver wanted. However once you see the news release from the Vancouver Board of Trade (VBOT).
It becomes all too clear. Port Metro Vancouver is now looking to taxpayers to help fund the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project.
Now the VBOT are to be congratulated on ensuring that BC gets its share of infrastructure funding from the Federal Government - but certainly not for Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (T2)!
What is not mentioned is that already planned expansions at West Coast container terminals will almost double container capacity by 2020, giving Canada enough west coast container terminal capacity without the need for T2. Deltaport as well as the Centerm inner harbour container terminal are adding about 1.3 mill containers (TEUs - twenty foot equivalent units). Prince Rupert's container terminal is also expanding in two phases and that will add another approx. 1.5 mill containers (TEUs). Thus the west coast container terminals in Canada will likely be adding close to 3 million containers (TEUs) in capacity by 2020. At annual growth rates of 3 or even 4 percent there is more than enough capacity to satisfy Canada’s trade objectives out to 2030 at least, especially considering that PMV is handling significant volumes (750,000 in 2015) of US containers, which adds nothing to the Canadian economy.
PMV has always claimed that T2 will not involve any taxpayer funds. Imagine the outrage in Delta and other communities - not to mention Global Container Terminals and DP World who are both funding their own expansions - when they find out that taxpayer dollars might be invested in PMV's T2. Here is a project whose business case appears very weak and that will likely result in huge risks to the Roberts Bank ecosystem - the most important ecosystem in Canada in terms of its abundant wildlife and biodiversity. And now PMV wants to get access to taxpayer funds to build T2. Go figure!
Minister of Transport Warned against investing in T2
Global News ran a news item last night
In the news item it was reported that Port Metro Vancouver Management took Minister of Transport the Hon. Marc Garneau out on a tour of the Vancouver harbour to give him some ideas on how to spend some of the billions of dollars in infrastructure promised in the fall election campaign.
And it’s been made perfectly clear to the minister that the port should be his top priority.
This generated concerns about the potential for taxpayer funds being used to fund a new container terminal on Roberts Bank.
Here is a letter sent yesterday to Marc Garneau MP, Minister of Transport firstname.lastname@example.org
I was alarmed at the information in the January 14 2015 broadcast by Global News:
“The minister heard Wednesday that a top priority is the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project at the mouth of the Fraser River in Delta.”
I sincerely hope that you will properly research the claims made by Port Metro Vancouver that a new container terminal is needed at Roberts Bank. To this date there has been no business case for this project. There is no Feasibility Study and no Cost/Benefit Analysis. Other Container Terminal Operators and employees do not want this Project to proceed as it will create unnecessary competition that will negatively impact existing business. I am concerned that you are being lobbied by Port Metro Vancouver, and ministry bureaucrats of the previous government, and that the information you are hearing is incomplete and inaccurate.
Transportation experts have advised the previous Liberal Government that:: “policy makers develop container capacity in Prince Rupert before making investments in Vancouver.”(Strategic Advisors Report, Asia Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative Report and Recommendations, 2008; Burghardt, DeFehr and Turner)
B.C. has ample capacity to handle increases in container trade. Vancouver, with current and planned upgrades (excluding Terminal 2) will be able to handle 5 to 5.5 million TEUs; current business is around 3 million TEUs. The Port of Prince Rupert (cheaper, less environmental damage) is expanding and will be able to handle 1.3 million TEUs. Plans for another terminal will increase capacity to 2.5 million TEUs. So B.C.’s west coast will be able to handle container business growth that is significantly more than double the current business. This will not happen for decades, if ever.
You mention in the news clip that: “There is a long list and there are long lists right across the country so we’re going to be looking at all of them and deciding on where is it the most important for us in order to make our trades flows as efficient as possible because it has a big effect on the economy of the country,”
Please do not be misled by the claims of Port Metro Vancouver. Please note that the main importance to the Canadian economy is the Bulk and Break Bulk shipping which accounts for 82% of the shipping tonnage through Port Metro Vancouver. The products shipped (exported) in Bulk and Break Bulk are the mainstays of the Canadian economy, i.e. our products such as grains, minerals, lumber, pulp, etc. These products truly do sustain thousands, perhaps even millions, of jobs throughout Canada.
The Container business on the other hand, is basically an import business, bringing in manufactured goods for the most part, which sustain millions of jobs in the countries that send us those goods, and some jobs in our retail sector. It’s nice to get these iPad’s, Mercedes car, Panasonic TV’s, etc. but let us not confuse this with job creation in Canada. Infrastructure and land requirements for the container business are prohibitively costly to taxpayers.
Container shipping into Canada grew nicely for a while, (during the ‘fledgling’ years), but isn’t growing at all now. Instead it is the new business of importing goods into the USA via Canada which is growing, and this doesn’t create any jobs at all, outside of the waterfront/railways connected to PMV.
And it is doing irreparable damage to our scarce and vital farmlands and globally- significant Fraser River delta, just to bring in/out containers for the Americans. Infrastructure and land requirements for the container business are prohibitively costly to taxpayers. While Port Metro Vancouver will be responsible for finding the financing for the new Terminal, the related infrastructure costs fall to the taxpayer who have already spent over $10 billion, and counting, on the Asia-Pacific Gateway. Your Government has stated funding for infrastructure is a priority. Please do not waste more valuable tax dollars on infrastructure for the Vancouver container business.
As you learned during the election, the Harper Government scuppered the environmental assessment process leading to a highly flawed process. This is the case for the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project. Lawyers have advised that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 fails to adequately address impacts, particularly cumulative effects, on the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales and fish species. Concerns have been submitted by the World Wildlife Fund, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Metro Vancouver and several local municipalities. The EIS fails to include vital scientific information on the unique importance of Roberts Bank to millions of Western Sandpipers and other shorebirds.
Your Government promised to stop this violation of due process. We are counting on you to ensure that current environmental assessments do not proceed under the flawed process. Directives from the new Government could order the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to strictly apply legislation such as credible science, credible cumulative effects assessment, impacts beyond the T2 Project footprint, sincere evaluation of Species at Risk, and inclusion of globally-significant wildlife.
Global Trade in Freefall - No need for T2
Hardly a day goes by without the media reporting on the decline in world trade. Recently we have seen articles about layoffs at major shipping lines, orders for new container vessels being cancelled and global slowdowns in trade growth, to name just a few.
Many of the articles say this is not a blip and point to a long-term slowdown. They talk about trade falling off a cliff. Of course much of this is as a result of significant slowdowns in the Chinese economy, which nobody is forecasting will pick up any time soon.And then along comes Port Metro Vancouver announcing that its container trade to the end of June increased by eight per cent compared to the same period in 2014.
So what is going on? Is Canada not seeing the same trade effects as everywhere else? Perhaps we need to delve into the stats a little deeper. Is the eight per cent increase accounted for by Canadian containers or is this increase accounted for by the fact the port is moving more and more U.S. containers, which, by the way, add little or nothing to the Canadian economy?
It is certainly strange that for a media release at the end of November the port chooses to use the end of June as a measure when it has container statistics all the way to the end of October. In fact at the end of October, for the year 2015, the statistics show the number of full containers handled by Port Metro Vancouver only increased by 2.1 per cent over the same period in 2014. These same statistics also show that the number of empty containers shipped - for which nobody makes any money except the shipping lines - is up a full 26 per cent for the 2015 year to date.
So is Canada seeing similar trade impacts as the rest of the world? Of course. Existing West Coast container ports not only have spare capacity today, but in the next five years are expanding to increase their capacity by as much as 70 per cent. With global trade in freefall, indications of a long-term trend and plenty of spare West Coast port capacity, there certainly is no need whatsoever for Port Metro Vancouver to consider building a second container terminal at Roberts Bank.
In fact Port Metro Vancouver quietly reduced its container growth forecast. Until recently it was saying that container volumes would double in the next 10 to 15 years. Recently they changed that and now state volumes will almost double in the next 15 years. That is a significant reduction but, given the realities of world trade, it is still unrealistic. It is time Port Metro Vancouver conceded that Canada does not need T2 to satisfy its trading needs in the foreseeable future
Is Port Metro Vancouver Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Sustainable?
As you are likely aware the Environmental Impact Statement for the Roberts Bank Container Terminal 2 (T2) project was released to the public in April. However, here we are 7 months later and there is still no opportunity to comment on its sufficiency and technical merit.
Therefore deciding that we have waited long enough we have now written and published a report entitled “Port Metro Vancouver’s Roberts Bank Container Terminal 2 Is Not Sustainable – It Must Never Be Built”.
Read the full report here:
The report reviews this project and finds it lacking in terms of its sustainability - being a balance between the economic, environmental and socio -community aspects. We will be filing this report with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency as soon as we are permitted to do so.
Conservation of important wildlife habitat is an international responsibility and Canada is falling short. Roberts Bank sits on the Pacific Flyway and is one of only six major stopping places where waterfowl and shorebirds pause to feed on their long journey between Central and South America and their Arctic breeding grounds. Loss of habitat and disturbance by port development on Roberts Bank is already having an impact on birds, waterfowl, fishes, whales and other wildlife. This second container terminal would be the tipping point. It cannot be allowed to proceed.
It is bad enough that the Port would consider a second container terminal in this highly significant environmental area, used by millions of shorebirds, by salmon, by whales and many other wildlife species. It is equally concerning that the business case for this container terminal is weak. It simply cannot be justified because there is plenty of spare current container port capacity as well as large expansions at existing container terminals coming on stream in the next five years that will increase container terminal capacity on the West Coast of Canada by about 70 percent. Not only that but the Port seems intent on poaching more US bound containers (which adds nothing to the Canadian economy) despite the fact that neighbouring US ports have lots of spare capacity - with Seattle/Tacoma ports planning to increase from 3.5 million containers to 6 million by 2020. In short the West Coast has enough container capacity for many years to come without building this hugely risky second container terminal.
There are some significant questions about this project:
- Why does the Port insist on building greenfield container capacity on environmentally sensitive land?
- Why is the Port putting Roberts Bank at risk by building a second container terminal on Roberts Bank, when:
- The three existing container terminals in Vancouver – Deltaport, Centerm and Vanterm all have spare capacity.
- All three Vancouver terminals have plans for expansion that will add even more capacity. Deltaport is already expanding, shortly to add 600,000 containers of capacity (Twenty foot Equivalent Units – TEUs). Centerm has plans in the short term to add between 600,000 and 800,000 TEUs of capacity. And Vanterm also has medium term plans to expand.
- Prince Rupert’s Fairview container terminal is undergoing an expansion that will add an additional 500,000 to 750,000 TEUs. Plus there are further expansion plans being considered, by adding a third berth, which will bring additional capacity of up to 700,000 TEUs.
- Taken together the Canadian West Coast container terminal expansions will bring online a further 2.4 to 2.9 million TEUs by 2020, without this Roberts Bank second container terminal. Adding this to the current spare capacity, there is more than sufficient container capacity to meet Canada’s trading needs for many years to come. Why therefore does the Port not recognize that a second container terminal is not needed now or in the foreseeable future and should not be built?
- Why does the Port not address the recommendations in the 2008 Federal Government Report (Strategic Advisors Report, Asia Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative Report and Recommendations), especially the key recommendation that “…policy makers develop container capacity in Prince Rupert before making investments in Vancouver” and further that: “…a systematic approach be taken to achieve an understanding of port capacity before a conclusion is reached that a particular port must necessarily be physically larger.”
- Why does the Port continue to handle more and more US containers (upwards of 750,000 TEUs for the year 2015), which adds little or nothing to the Canadian economy, when US west coast ports have the capacity to handle these US containers? Seattle/Tacoma container terminals, currently handling 3.4 million TEUs, plans to expand to 6 million TEUs by 2020 and want to take back the US container traffic that Port Metro Vancouver has poached
These and many other questions remain unanswered.