January 18, 2022

The Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) released its annual cargo volumes today – over 25 million tonnes moved through the Prince Rupert Gateway in Northern BC in 2021. Despite this uncharacteristic 23 percent decrease in year-over-year total volume, the Port of Prince Rupert played a vital role in ensuring the movement of essential goods on North America’s West Coast and provided important economic stability for the region through a tumultuous year. With optimistic market forecasts and new capacity coming on stream, the Prince Rupert Gateway has every reason to feel confident about its performance in 2022. 

“With global supply chains experiencing unprecedented challenges and volatility, the Port of Prince Rupert remains proud to have been a leader in efficiency and fluidity on the West Coast and we hope to continue to offer an uncongested port of call for trans-Pacific trade as a key strategic gateway for Canada,” said Shaun Stevenson, President and CEO, Prince Rupert Port Authority. “However, the decline in volumes reflects that our terminals and partners are in an extremely dynamic and competitive market, and emphasizes the importance of our work to position the Port of Prince Rupert for targetted growth in capacity and further diversification of our cargoes.”

The Port of Prince Rupert Gateway actively facilitates Canada’s ambitions for increased international trade and economic health and is on the cusp of significant capacity increases. Port of Prince Rupert employers, industries and labour organizations have launched the Port of Prince Rupert Gateway Council and released an economic impact study that revealed that in 2020 alone, Gateway operations handled approximately $60 billion in trade value and supported an estimated 3,700 direct supply-chain jobs in Northern BC, $360 million in annual wages, and $147 million in annual government revenue.

This past year, Prince Rupert leveraged its natural advantages to secure its competitive position with new service calls in its intermodal business through the introduction of an express COSCO pendulum shipping service between DP World-Prince Rupert’s Fairview Container Terminal and Asia, as well as a new trans-Pacific service offered by MSC. Through a partnership between COSCO, DP World-Prince Rupert and CN, two new expedited rail services between Prince Rupert and Chicago, and Prince Rupert and Toronto, now offer an unparalleled means to transport cargo at record pace – a proposition that is all the more desirable as congestion and delays continue at other ports.    

Importantly, 2021 served as a significant period of construction and investment as the Port celebrated milestones and made strides towards completion of several critical infrastructure projects to help further enable trade and diversity in the Gateway. These are:

  • Pembina’s Prince Rupert LPG Terminal was commissioned in Q1 and an inaugural shipment of liquified petroleum gas left the Watson Island terminal in April 2021.
  • DP World-Prince Rupert’s Fairview Container Terminal Expansion Project began construction in Q1 2021 and saw the expansion of the container yard with major infill work at the south end of the terminal footprint, as well as the arrival and commissioning of an eighth quay crane capable of servicing the largest vessels afloat today. The Project will bring new capacity on line by July 2022, and eventually bring the terminal’s overall capacity up to 1.8 million TEUs by the end of 2023.
  • The Fairview-Ridley Connector Corridor, including intermodal rail siding expansion and a haul road that will enable container truck traffic to be rerouted away from public roads with a corresponding 75% decrease in distance and air emissions, substantially completed construction in 2021 and is ready for commissioning in July 2022.
  • In October 2021, Wolverine Terminals Inc. announced the start of construction on its Marine Fuel Terminal, providing new marine fuel distribution services at the Port.
  • The Ridley Island Export Logistics Project, a project that will support large-scale export transloading, maximizing value to Canadian exporters, the South Kaien Island Logistics Project, an import logistics park with transloading and warehousing capabilities, and Vopak Pacific Canada, a new liquid bulk storage facility and marine berth, are all expected to make final investment decisions early in 2022.

The Port’s 25,014,134 tonnes in total volume included a record year at AltaGas’ Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal with 1,493,876 tonnes handled and the addition of Pembina’s Watson Island LPG Bulk Terminal coming online with 370,525 tonnes exported. Westview Pellet Terminal, owned and operated by Pinnacle Renewable Energy, now a subsidiary of Drax Group, had a strong year, exporting 1,442,851 tonnes of wood pellets. DP World-Prince Rupert’s Fairview Container Terminal’s volume declined slightly to 1,054,836 TEUs handled through the year.

The shortfall in total volume can largely be attributed to intermodal supply chain disruptions, industry-specific issues,  and a competitive West Coast market. 

  • Ridley Terminals Inc. saw a sharp decline due to the loss of a core coal customer. RTI’s 2021 volume decrease is a significant concern, but PRPA is committed to continuing to work with them to seek efficiencies and diversification opportunities as the energy and steel market continues a transition driven by climate-related policy.
  • Prince Rupert Grain experienced decreased shipments due to a poor crop year in the Canadian agricultural sector.
  • Cruise passenger volumes were null with the cancellation of a second summer cruise season due to the pandemic. PRPA continues to work closely with the cruise industry and local stakeholders to ensure Prince Rupert and surrounding communities are ready to provide world-class offerings once again with the expected resumption of international cruise travel this summer. 

“Given the year that we’ve all experienced in the province of BC with the impacts of extreme weather events, supply chain congestion, and economic uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, 2021 served to underscore the necessity for additional investment and diversification in the Prince Rupert Gateway to offset trade pattern volatility and shore up the economy against any future supply chain disruptions on North America’s West Coast. We continue to advance the development of critical infrastructure and expansion projects at the Port of Prince Rupert to best support the resilience, diversification and growth of Canadian trade and supply routes,” said Stevenson. “By expanding, we hope to continue be a key economic driver in Northern BC for the benefit of all and will be better positioned to offer Canadian industries supply chain security as the global economy rebounds from the effects of the pandemic.”

To view the Prince Rupert Port Authority’s December 2021 traffic summary, click here.

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