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No end to Delta port operator heated feud with VFPA

The port authority and port operator have competing proposals for container terminal expansion at Roberts Bank
The port authority’s T2 project would provide an additional 2.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units of container capacity per year at Roberts Bank.

The war of words continues between the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and the operator of the container port at Roberts Bank in Delta.

The port authority is still waiting for word from the federal government if approval will come for the port’s Terminal 2 application, which would see a new three-berth facility constructed on a man-made island adjacent to the current Deltaport facility.

The Deltaport three-berth container facility operator, Global Container Terminals (GCT), has its own competing application, proposing to build a fourth berth (DP4) connected to its facility.

A federal court ruling last July dismissed GCT allegations of bias against the port.

In 2019, GCT filed an application for a judicial review, challenging the port authority's decision-making in relation to its long-term planning for delivering container capacity.

The port authority last week issued a news bulletin noting the federal court in November issued a judgment on supplementary costs, ordering GCT to pay the port $115,000 in legal fees.

Alex Munro, a senior communications advisor for the port, told the Optimist that GCT’s contention that the earlier court ruling was mixed was refuted by the court, which said there was “no doubt” the port authority was the “successful party.”

Saying the November ruling was the second time in the past year the federal court has ruled “decisively” in the port authority’s favour, the news bulletin quotes from the ruling including the statement, “With my decision, the chickens have come home to roost, and that strategic decision on the part of GCT now has consequences as regards to costs.”

Munro said the port’s focus continues to be delivering the infrastructure needed with T2 to support Canada’s growing trade.

Attached to the news bulletin is the November ruling by Federal Justice Panagiotis (Peter) Pamel, who said that although he did find, as part of his reasons for judgment, that the VFPA breached its duty of procedural fairness towards GCT, that initial error was “for all intents and purposes” remedied by the VFPA when it reversed course a few months later, but GCT chose “pursuing an aggressive litigation strategy” alleging serious misconduct.

Describing the port authority’s news bulletin as more “spin” than anything else, GCT spokesperson Marko Dekovic in an email to the Optimist said the port has left out a few facts.

“The VFPA strangely neglected to note that GCT has appealed the July 2022 court decision to the Federal Court of Appeal. The hearing date has not yet been set, but we expect it to be before the end of June 2023. It is clear the VFPA took selective, self-serving comments from judge’s November 2022 decision regarding costs. The fact remains that the judge affirmed yet again, Federal Crown Agent, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority breached its duty of procedural fairness towards GCT,” stated Dekovic.   

“What they did after is to sweep it under the rug by reversing the move, and judging by their communication efforts now, clearly this is something worth appealing for the benefit of all Canadians and all investors into our ports.”

He noted GCT asked the court to waive the legal costs and the court agreed lowering them.  Thus, GCT paid the VFPA $115,000 in legal costs in December 2022.

Dekovic also noted GCT is not the only party facing fairness issues, other tenants have filed judicial reviews.