Editor’s note: Following are excerpts from Capt. Gordon Houston’s (Pres. & CEO Vancouver Port Authority) address before the Railway Association of Canada
I’d like to thank the Railway Association of Canada for the opportunity to speak to you today about port infrastructure development, and the issues and priorities facing the Port of Vancouver.
I’ve been doing a lot of speaking and advocacy on this issue for the past 18 months. And I know my fellow panelists are equally motivated to ensure that the infrastructure needs of our gateway ports and the transportation needs of Canadian industry are met over the next 10 - 15 years.
These are critically important issues for our country. Not only do we have a great deal to gain if our transportation industries can respond to the huge increase in Asia-Pacific trade forecast over the next decade.
We also have a great deal to lose if we can’t respond effectively. Canadian export industries, consumers, workers, communities and the national economy will all suffer.
And they’re not just important issues for our ports to grapple with. I believe that all of the players in Canada’s transportation network have a vital role to play to prepare our nation to compete on the international stage in the years ahead.
It’s not just ports and railways. It’s our trucking companies and distribution partners. It’s our customers here in Canada and overseas.
And it’s the communities that host Canada’s international ports.
And particularly, there is a critical role for government to play. Our future success will require not only public investments and public policy that responds to the competitive threats and opportunities that confront Canada’s transportation industries.
It will require leadership and vision. It will require a true partnership between the public and private sectors.
I know all of the government officials in the room today recognize that Canada’s transportation system is a critical component of our nation’s infrastructure.
But I also want you to understand our transportation system as fundamental to the nation’s economic future. Without a healthy, growing and competitive national transportation system we simply cannot have a healthy, growing and competitive economy.
As you’ll hear today, the opportunities for Canada to enhance its share of Asia-Pacific trade over the next few decades are enormous.
You in government have a huge responsibility to help us capture those opportunities for the benefit of all Canadians.
We need your support if we are to grow, to invest, to compete and to win on the international stage.
Our business at the Port of Vancouver is growing rapidly.
Total tonnage through Canada’s largest gateway port increased 11% last year to 74 million tons, and is expected to increase by 10% annually through 2020.
You are also aware of the tremendous increase in container traffic forecast for Canada’s west coast ports. At the Port of Vancouver, it is projected that container volumes will more than triple to nearly five million teus within 15 years.
This remarkable growth is due in large part to the re-emergence of Asia, and particularly China, as a dominant force in world trade. But its not just container traffic that China’s incredible economic expansion is driving.
China’s manufacturing and domestic construction sectors are also creating tremendous export opportunities for Canada’s resource industries, our minerals industry, coal producers, petrochemicals, agriculture, and forest product companies.
For the Port of Vancouver, this represents a kind of Double Jeopardy.
You have to remember that even though container volumes handled at the Port of Vancouver will more than triple over the next 15 years, we are still predominantly an export port. More than 80% of our volumes are bulk exports of Canadian resource commodities.
So at the same time we’re facing unprecedented year-over-year growth in container volumes, our customers in the bulk business are also moving to respond to