By Shari Fenn, Content Contributor
If you are living in Southern Alberta, it seems wherever you go, conversations quickly go to lay-offs, cutbacks and the slow down of the oil and gas sector.
Not a positive topic.
Consumers react by holding back spending, further dampening the economy.
Will the oil and gas industry ever recover? There are diverse predictions abound.
The downturn in the economy is real and the sense of doom is tangible.
But this story isn’t about doom and gloom. It’s just the opposite.
Southern Alberta is negotiating a strategic partnership with Port of Prince Rupert Authority.
The partnership will strengthen the trade corridor between the Port of Prince Rupert and Southern Alberta.
It will also boost Southern Alberta’s economy.
Colleen Shepherd, Executive Director, Calgary Regional Partnership says, “It holds the promise of increased export opportunities through the Calgary Region to Prince Rupert and beyond to Asian markets.”
This article gives you an overview of a recent meeting exploring how to strengthen the trade corridor between the Port of Prince Rupert and Southern Alberta.
How a new partnership benefits the economy
On April 28, a workshop was held with stakeholders from the Calgary Region, Southern Alberta and
the Port of Prince Rupert Authority.
Attendees explored new export opportunities through the Calgary Region to Prince Rupert trade corridor and beyond to Asian and Pacific markets.
The Prince Rupert Port Authority is a desirable partner for Southern Alberta’s supply chain due to the of the growth capacity for exports along the trade corridor.
According to Jim Brown, JRSB Logistics Consulting and logistics advisor to CRP, “This is a first in bringing together Southern Alberta’s producers and the economic development community with Prince Rupert Port Authority.”
It’s a rare feat having a diverse group of players all in one room – especially where the spirit is one of creative dialogue and collaboration.
“There’s incredible opportunity for the Calgary Region and all of Southern Alberta to increase export cargo (using available containers) from the Calgary Region Inland Port through the Port of Prince Rupert, says Brown.”
Seizing new financial opportunity through export containers
Containers are at the heart of how the supply chains efficiently move goods along international trade corridors.
The Calgary Region Inland Port is a thriving gateway for imports destined to Calgary Region, and through the Region to Western Canadian destinations.
As for exports, most containers returning to Asia leave the Calgary Region empty.
Identifying opportunities to return containers back to Asia filled with exports from Southern Alberta is a revenue generator.
What is Calgary Region Inland Port?
The Calgary Regional Inland Port is a collaborative initiative to promote and strengthen the Calgary Region.
The Calgary Region serves as a significant intermodal and distribution hub serving Western Canada and beyond.
Key partners include:
- Calgary Regional Partnership
- Calgary Economic Development
- Van Horne Institute
- Calgary International Airport
- Mount Royal University
- Calgary Logistics Council
- City of Calgary and
- other municipalities and industry representatives.
“Working together to strengthen the Calgary Region Inland Port as both an incoming supply chain to serve large distribution centres in the Calgary Region and as a gateway for Southern Alberta exports to tide-water ports is a goal we all share and work towards” emphasizes Mary Moran, President and CEO of Calgary Economic Development.
Taking advantage of empty cargo containers
According to Gordon Ham, Senior Partner, Infinitum Consulting, “We know that containers don’t grow in Southern Alberta, like wheat or cattle – they are brought here by importers to provide raw materials and finished products for Canadians.”
“We know that too many containers, and perhaps the majority of them at times, return from the Calgary Region to overseas destinations empty – and therein lays our opportunity.”
The opportunity is with containers that return to Port of Prince Rupert.
The majority of these containers are completely empty – raising the question:
“What would it take to fill many of these containers with exports from Southern Alberta?”.
What new export opportunities would look like
At the meeting, Dave Bedwell, Executive Vice President, COSCO (China Ocean Shipping Company) Container Lines America said, “Prince Rupert is the smoothest, most fluid import terminal that I have seen in my 25 years in this industry. The majority of cargo is off the ship and onto the train within 48 hours.”
COSCO is a company with over 118,000 employees and $95 billion in assets and $35 billion in revenue.
Advantages of using Prince Rupert as gateway
During the meeting, Andrew Hamilton, Director Business Development, Prince Rupert Port Authority, outlined the following reasons for the success of the seaport:
- Closest North American port to Asia.
Works out to between 1 to 1.5 days faster than other Pacific seaports.
- Deepest natural harbor in North America.
This is significant because vessels are getting bigger. Many of the ports and terminals throughout North America are too shallow to accommodate these big vessels.
- Safe, sheltered and efficient access from international shipping lanes.
Especially important with liquid exports coming from Alberta such as propane, methane and glycol.
- Superior and uncongested rail and road connection to North American markets.
Canadian National Railway (CN) operates the only rail line at the northern port. CN provides some of the best access from coast to coast of any railway in North America.
- Exceptional community and labor support for expansion.
How the Prince Rupert Port Authority expansion fits
The Port of Prince Rupert Authority has been going through a massive, multi-billion dollar expansion.
The volume of Asian trade traffic moving through the port is projected to expand substantially.
The expansion is an important asset in connecting and strengthening the supply chain of:
- trains and ships, and
- intermodal facilities supporting Southern Alberta.
The expansion of Port of Prince Rupert’s terminal capacity will help meet Asia’s demand for Western Canada’s natural resources.
Support of multi-nationals brings industry commitment
DP World Ltd., the Dubai government-owned ports operator, bought a container terminal in Prince Rupert.
At the workshop, Tabare Dominguez, Commercial Director, DP World, said his organization has 77 marine and inland terminals world-wide, and a staff of more than 37,000 people.
Dominguez said, “for every new project we develop from around the world, we bring the expertise of all the locations into the new place, and this is the case with Prince Rupert.”
The attendance by Dominquez at the workshop is a clear indication of DP World’s commitment to work alongside Prince Rupert Port Authority to support growth of exports from and through Southern Alberta.
The meeting closed with the intent to formalize a strategic partnership with Port of Prince Rupert and the Calgary Regional Partnership.
The development of exports through enhanced trade corridors is a strategic priority for the Province of Alberta’ diversification strategy.
Paul McLaughlin, Director, Transportation Solutions, Alberta Economic Development and Trade best summed up the opportunity:
“Port of Prince Rupert is an efficient and very well run port with excellent rail service to and from Alberta. CN’s service from Port of Prince Prince Rupert, through Edmonton and down to the Calgary Region has been exceptional.”
The Port of Prince Rupert is an efficient and cost effective facility for Southern Alberta shippers to move their product off shore.”
Bob Miller, Regional Economic Prosperity Lead, Calgary Regional Partnership, emphasized that
“this is one of many opportunities for the five economic regions of Southern Alberta to collaborate together with industry and the Province to strengthen export development and trade corridors serving Southern Alberta producers.”
Shari Fenn is a Canadian storyteller, inbound content writer and owner of Cross Communications Inc.