Port authority bent on ignoring better expansion option at Roberts Bank

Editor:

Re: Port authority pokes holes in DP4 plan, Aug. 8

article continues below

In a recent article, Duncan Wilson of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority had a lot to say against Global Container Terminals’ campaign to try and get a fair hearing on Deltaport Berth 4 (DP4). DP4 is GCT’s port expansion plan that can provide needed container capacity for the West Coast of Canada.

But the port authority, GCT’s regulator and landlord, is bent on ignoring this (better) alternative and focusing exclusively on Roberts Bank Terminal 2, its own plan for a brand new terminal island.

Rather than devolve into a “they said, we said” scenario, we’ll let the relevant experts counter Wilson’s assertions.

Wilson says, “Terminal 2 isn’t aimed at fewer jobs.” That may not be the aim, but how can the port authority make any claims about jobs when it doesn’t know who will be operating the terminal or how? What do the experts say? At the recent CEAA panel hearings about T2, Tom Doron of ILWU expressed his concerns with the impact of the project on labour indicating “…we believe that the net economic impact of this project has not been adequately addressed or assessed, particularly as it relates to the impact of automation on our industry and our communities.”

Wilson says bringing in another operator is part of the port’s mandate to ensure it provides facilities that are competitive at reasonable rates to users. What do the experts say? CPCS Transcom, a firm of management consultants specializing in the transportation and infrastructure sectors, tested the validity of the port authority’s assertion that port performance was necessarily enhanced through increasing the number of operators.

Their report concluded there was no established correlation between port performance and the number of terminal operators. In view of industry trends, intra-port competition (i.e. competition within a port) is increasingly less relevant than inter-port competition (i.e. competition among various ports).

Further, the port authority has not provided a single report, data point or evidence to indicate that either the current port operators are uncompetitive, or that allowing GCT to expand Deltaport would make the port uncompetitive.

The federal government delegated the responsibility of ensuring healthy competitive markets in this country to the Competition Bureau Canada, which recently, for example, conducted a review of the purchase of Fraser Surrey Docks by a terminal operator which already operates two major container terminals in B.C. (DP World). The mandate of the experts at the Competition Bureau is to enforce the competition legislation aimed at preventing anti-competitive practices in the marketplace, and to maintain and encourage competition in Canada.

Why does the port authority, with no transparency or accountability, believe it can perform this function better than the Competition Bureau? GCT would welcome receiving any type of detailed response from the port authority explaining its views on competition and its basis for claiming expertise in this area. To date, GCT has received no response from the port authority.

Wilson says the location of GCT’s proposed expansion DP4 is a non-starter and cites Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) as his experts. Funny, because at the recent CEAA panel hearings, the experts from DFO affirmed there is no blanket prohibition on expansion along the east side of the Roberts Bank causeway and the 2003 letter continually referenced by the port authority provided feedback to a specific project that was larger in size and scope. Moreover, the experts from ECCC were focused on the location of T2, especially with regard to its likely impact on shorebirds and the biofilm upon which they depend.

Wilson said: “We’re going to run out of container capacity on the West Coast in the mid-2020s. The only project that is in the hopper that can be delivered in time is Terminal 2.” The experts? A January 2019 study by Black Quay Consulting indicates there is plenty of existing container capacity on Canada’s West Coast to meet demand until at least 2030.

So the port authority’s urgent calls for construction of additional capacity at Roberts Bank in Delta to begin as soon as possible are not valid. There is plenty of time to evaluate all options and be sure to get it right.

And that is all GCT is asking for: a fair and open process that properly considers and evaluates all options for effective terminal expansion at Roberts Bank. Wouldn’t it make sense to let the experts decide?

Marko Dekovic

Vice President, Public Affairs

GCT Global Container Terminals Inc.

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