VANCOUVER, B.C. – An idea decades in the making, is another step closer to reality as the federal government announced its intention to amalgamate the port authorities in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.
The amalgamation would combine the efforts of the Vancouver Port Authority, the Fraser River Port Authority and the North Fraser Port Authority, into a single port authority.
“It’s been talked about for years, 20 years at least,” said Ann McMullin, communications representative for the VPA and the Amalgamation Transition Committee.
By combining the three port authorities, stakeholders in the Lower Mainland port system are trying to position themselves to provide better service and create more business, both domestically and internationally.
“While we do work together there are restrictions, and financially this will serve better for land acquisitions and planning,” explained McMullin. “It’s an opportunity to capture the growing trade of Asia and we feel we’re better served as one entity, rather than three.”
With one port authority in place, the hope is better land use and planning will provide a seamless service for truck, rail and sea transportation.
“We’ll be better able to work together in the supply chain and serve our customers and suppliers,” McMullin told Truck West. “What we will be able to do is have a more consolidated approach to the Lower Mainland. If we promote better service and are able to market that, then that’s a benefit.”
News of the port authority amalgamation moving forward was welcomed by the British Columbia Trucking Association. The BCTA is supporting the port authority amalgamation and is confident one management team will be better suited for tracking truck traffic at the ports.
“We hope that with one manager, any improvements in logistics for trucks serving the ports may come a little faster than in the past. That’s not to say there have been problems before, but improvements can always be made and we hope this will help,” said Paul Landry, president and CEO of the BCTA. “Specifically with the reservation system for trucks, with one governance structure it will achieve uniformity.”
As part of a coordinated effort with the port authorities, the Government of Canada has issued a certificate of intent to amalgamate, which requires the port authorities to combine and continue as one port authority, to be called the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. This certificate was published in the Canada Gazette, Part I on June 16.
“Integration of these ports is a key policy measure under Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative,” said Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. “It could also enhance Canada’s competitiveness in the global trade environment, and may be the most effective means of maximizing port efficiencies and optimizing port planning.”
The issuing of the certificate of intent to amalgamate and its publication in the Canada Gazette, Part I is the first formal step towards amalgamation. The next step will be the publication of a notice of the certificate of intent in newspapers in B.C., which will begin a 30-day public comment period. Newspaper publication and public commentary is part of a larger strategy being pursued by Transport Canada and the port authorities to actively engage stakeholders and to seek their views on the proposed amalgamation.
“This is a major step towards building a world class gateway that is a driving force in Canada’s logistics chain,” said Sarah Morgan-Silvester, chair of the Amalgamation Transition Committee. “We will be better positioned to maximize regional benefits, mitigate impacts of growth, and lead sustainability.”
In another recent development, the Transition Committee responsible for the amalgamation of the three port authorities, has named Captain Gordon Houston as transition CEO for the proposed Vancouver Fraser Port Authority VFPA.
The transition CEO will report to the Transition Committee and is a newly-created role to guide the formation of the proposed VFPA, including the selection of the executive team.
“This announcement represents a significant milestone in the transition process,” said Morgan-Silvester. “Our three port authorities continue to work together to prepare for amalgamation and the tremendous opportunity this brings for Canada’s Pacific Gateway.”
The CEOs of the three lower mainland port authorities will continue to lead operations of their respective organizations until the date of amalgamation.
Although progress is being achieved inside government circles, the port authority amalgamation has drawn some concern among locals, including a parliamentarian.
Vancouver Conservative MP John Cummins is concerned the larger authority will focus on global trade, setting local concerns aside. The port merger does not bode well for small business operators whose livelihoods are tied to the Fraser River, Cummins noted in local media reports.
A provincial ports strategy, released in 2005, calls for B.C. ports, including Prince Rupert, to increase their share of Asia-Pacific container traffic from a current 10% to 17% by 2020. The increase and corresponding hikes in bulk traffic could inject the Canadian economy with an additional $6.6 billion a year.
In an effort to meet those targets, the ports will require significant infrastructure improvements and a consultant’s report suggested port integration would be a helpful course of action.
The VPA is adamant local concerns will not get lost in the shuffle and insist they have been working closely within the communities to ensure developments will not create a burden in local communities.
“We’ve made that clear from the beginning and we’ve worked with every community on port ground,” explained McMullin. “We’ve met with the communities and outlined plans to work together on certain issues.”