Port Expansion Unnecessary

Against Port Expansion Feb. 25, 2016

Vancouver, BC – Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) just released its 2015 annual statistics overview. Whilst the report itself is factual there are some questionable statements in the accompanying press release, such as:

1. Growth – “In the last five years, the port has grown by the equivalent of the annual volume of Canada’s second largest port – the Port of Montreal,” continued Robin Silvester. “And we anticipate that growth to continue at about the same rate over the next five years, despite the current slow-down.”

Yes but ……. Total cargo growth in Vancouver between 2006 and 2015 has been 7.2% (not per year, but TOTAL!) whereas growth in Montreal for the same 2006-2015 period has been 23.5%, so the only reason PMV can make that claim is because Vancouver is so much bigger, and by carefully picking the base year (the 2009 crisis when volumes in Vancouver tanked) they paint a rosier picture than the reality.  Furthermore if overall growth continues at this historic rate (less than 1% per annum between 2006 and 2015), then the case for any new terminals (containers or otherwise) – i.e. Roberts Bank T2 – is weak to non existent.

2. Record Setting ??? – “This is the port’s third consecutive year of strong cargo volumes, with new records set in the container, potash, and grain and agri-product sectors.”

Hardly record setting. Container cargo tonnage is the key figure and it only increased by 2 percent. In Vancouver imports are the real driver of container volumes and laden imports only increased by 2 percent in terms of units or 3 percent in TEUs (twenty-foot equivalents). These are not great numbers –  certainly not record setting. And considering that the US labour issues in 2015 caused an increased diversion of US traffic to Canadian ports it confirms that Canadian container growth is stalled. PMV’s consultant had projected that PMV would handle over 3.15 million TEU in 2015. Actuals were more than 100,000 less – the need for T2 is not there, yet PMV keeps plowing ahead with this project.

Some other numbers of note – (i) empty outbound containers increased by 31 percent over 2014. This is likely due to the China slowdown which is hurting exports to China; (ii) bulk metric tonnage is down 1 percent (a decline of about one million metric tonnes); (iii) break-bulk metric tonnage is down by 3 percent; and (iv) the 7 year Compound Annual Growth Rate for all container metrics – inbound, outbound or total – are all at or less than 3 percent. (The figure Mr. Silvester is using of 5 percent growth includes empty containers – which of course are of no value). Record setting – not so.

Several analysts in the transportation sector are talking about the new normals for container traffic. The suggestion is that future growth in container volumes could be well below 5 percent. Another point analysts are making is that being a terminal operator in the future does not look too rosy, with falling profit margins and rising capital and operating expenditures.

All this demonstrates that the $3.5 billion plus second container terminal on Roberts Bank is just not needed – now nor any time in the foreseeable future. With expansion planned for existing Vancouver terminals plus at Prince Rupert’s container port, all of British Columbia’s container ports have capacity to handle CANADIAN container volumes for many years to come, without building Roberts Bank Terminal 2.

About APE: The Community Group – Against Port Expansion in the Fraser Estuary BC – opposes adding a second terminal on Roberts Bank. It 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. We are a broad-based community group consisting of people from various backgrounds. Join us: Say No To Roberts Bank Container Terminal 2. For more information visit www.againstportexpansion.org or email: info@againstportexpansion.org

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