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Port merger draws outside concern

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- With B.C. port authorities on the verge on merging into one entity, a local MP has voiced concer...

VANCOUVER, B.C. — With B.C. port authorities on the verge on merging into one entity, a local MP has voiced concern over the move.

The proposed merger would unite the Vancouver Port Authority with the Fraser River Port Authority and the North Fraser Port Authority into a single entity.

Vancouver conservative MP John Cummins is concerned the larger authority will focus on global trade, setting local concerns aside, reported the Globe and Mail. The port merger does not bode well for small-business operators whose livelihoods are tied to the Fraser River, noted Cummins.

The merger has been in the works for some time and port stakeholders are confident the move will support growing trade in the region.

It’s been talked about for 30 years, but it’s one of those ideas whose time has come, commented Gordon Houston, president and CEO of the VPA. Mainly because of the growth in business we’re all experiencing. If you look at our projected figures for growth over the next 15 or 20 years, there is no port in B.C. that can handle that alone.

The ports in the Lower Mainland are aligning themselves to keep their current customers, as well as adding customers from competitors utilizing ports along the U.S. coast.

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 consultants report suggested port integration would be a helpful course of action.

The merger could be made official by the federal government as soon as this week; and the new combined port authority body would be called the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and could be in place by early next year.

— with files from the Globe and Mail

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