BNSF Rail to load coal through Canada's Fraser Surrey Docks
By Leo Quigley, AJOT
The largest and most diverse multi-purpose terminal on North America's West Coast is planning to expand once again.
The growth at Vancouver’s Fraser Surrey Docks, located on the Fraser River, will come in the form of a coal transfer facility that will move coal from rail to barges that will deliver it downriver to an existing loading facility at Beale Cove, Texada Island, off the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
Aerial view of Vancouver’s Fraser Surrey Docks, which is located on the Fraser River.
At Beale Cove the coal will then be loaded onto ocean going bulk carriers destined primarily to Asia.
According to FSDs’ permit application, the transfer facility will move up to four million metric tonnes of coal per year, which could grow to eight million metric tonnes. The coal will be transferred from Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail and loaded directly onto 8,000 DWT barges at the terminal’s existing Berth 2.
No coal will be stored at FSD during normal operations.
Expectations are that a coal train will unload at the facility once every two days starting next year, moving to a train a day in 2014. Tugs will then take the single barges to the mouth of the Fraser River. Then, once past Sand Heads at the mouth of the river, they will be towed in tandem to Texada Island. From there the coal will be stored at Texada Quarrying Ltd., an existing bulk loading facility for deep sea vessels, before being loaded for overseas export.
It’s expected that it will require two barges daily to move the coal to Texada Island by 2014.
“Although the current permit review will examine volumes of four million tonnes per year, there is potential to increase volumes up to eight million tonnes of coal per year over the longer term,” the application says.
While Canada’s West Coast already has three large terminals to service the Asian market for coal, the demand has become so strong Bill Wehnert, Vice-President, Sales and Marketing for FSD says there’s room for a fourth coal handling facility at Port Metro Vancouver. And, given the pressure being exerted on available land for development by urban growth in the Lower Mainland, the shoreline along the Fraser River offers an ideal location for expansion.
“We’re the only terminal in Vancouver with a BNSF direct line … and that works to get the coal project underway,” Wehnert told AJOT
However, in addition to BNSF the multi-purpose river terminal also has direct access to Canada’s two class one railways, CN and CP, as well as Southern Rail of British Columbia and is located adjacent to a highway system that is in the process of being upgraded to a state-of- the-art fast truck route as part of Canada’s Asia Pacific Corridor Initiative.
“The Fraser River is a major part of the future of Canada,” Wehnert said. “That’s where this port (Port Metro Vancouver) is going to grow in the future. They’re not going to knock down condos in downtown Vancouver to build more terminals. They’re not going to continue to build man-made islands (such as Deltaport) on the causeways.
“There’s cargo that can come up and down the rivers, like bulk and break-bulk, and if you want to take this port (PMV) to the optimum level you have to look at the Fraser River.
“There’s miles and miles of river frontage that can be developed for industrial use.
“Imagine, for a minute, developing the Fraser River and putting facilities along the river that contribute to global trade. Think about all the jobs that would be created. People could work south of the Fraser River without having to use any tunnels or bridges.”
Wehnert sees the Fraser River becoming one of Canada’s major transportation arteries in the very near future.
“We want to play a part in growing the port,” he said. “The coal program is bringing brand new business to the port.”
He said that while coal from the U.S. is a start to the program FSD is actively looking for other coal customers, particularly within British Columbia/Alberta.
“We can do it because we’re multi-purpose,” he said. “And, we’re sitting on 154 acres of property. It’s a relatively large footprint when you think about it. We can park seven ships at the terminal at one time.
What a lot of people don’t realize he said is that Fraser Surrey Docks handles considerable project cargo and that piece of business has increased by double digits over the past few years.
“We are very focused on growing that in the future. Fraser Surrey Docks, in our opinion, is the best project cargo solution in this gateway and it’s an important role of Port Metro Vancouver to attract those types of cargoes inbound and outbound,” he said.
With the growth in Western Canada’s oil, gas and coal industries large machinery, project cargo and supplies such as steel will be required. Wehnert believes it’s cargo that would be more easily moved through a Canadian port such as Fraser Surrey Docks as opposed to a U.S. port where is has to be hauled North by truck to a project that is often still considerable distance overland from the Canada/U.S. border.