The Port of Prince Rupert, located on Canada’s West Coast, boasts one of the deepest natural, ice-free harbors in the world and it’s also geographically the closest waterborne trade route to Asia of all North American West Coast ports.
From its roots over 10,000 years ago as a Tsimshian First Nation hunting and fishing ground, and later as a popular 19th century fur trading post, Prince Rupert has flourished and expanded into the major global trade, tourist and rail transportation hub it is today.
Visionary Charles Melville Hays, founded Prince Rupert in 1910. Hays, who worked his ways up the ranks in the railroad trade, was then President of the Grand Trunk Railway. He first thought of using the harbor area as a passenger ship terminal but a number of events prevented his dream from being realized, including his untimely death at age 55 -- he perished aboard the Titanic in 1912.
The Grand Trunk Railway, which later was amalgamated into what’s known today as the Canadian National Railway, originally made Prince Rupert the key end destination on the West Coast. In the 1970s, the Port was used mainly as a timber and pulp outlet, and now its modern intermodal terminals are well-connected to the American Midwest and even Mexico along the Northwest Transportation Corridor.
The Port’s Fairview Container Terminal was completed in 2007. The 59-acre facility enables to Port to move over 750,000 TEUs per year, and is set to expand even further to having the capacity for two million TEUs. Construction is currently underway that will see the area grow to 80 acres, increase dock-handling capacity to six-eight ultra post-panamax cranes from three super post-panamax and 30,000 feet of trackage from 20,000 in the intermodal yard. With wharf extension upgrades, the terminal is already able to handle ships carrying more than 12,500 TEUs.
Nearby Ridley Terminals Inc., a separate government-run entity, works in partnership with the city of Prince Rupert and the Coast Tsimshian First Nations of Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla. The state-of-the-art automated 56-acre terminal is able to load 9,000 tonnes of coal per hour and approximately 12 million tons per year from 250,000 DWT ships. Coal storage is available for up to 1.2 million tons and in keeping with the Port’s environmental stewardship initiatives, the facility ensures railcars are washed upon disembarking coal cargo and the coal in storage is kept moist to keep the dust to a minimum. Additionally, the Prince Rupert Grain Terminal has the capability to handle loading wheat or barley at approximately 4,000 tons per hour, with a storage capacity of 202,000 tonnes.
The Port’s Northland Cruise Terminal began operation in 2004 and has, in recent years, seen over 100,000 passengers a year; Prince Rupert is a key stop along the cruising route to Alaska. Cruise ships of 960ft can be accommodated and tourists are easily embarked and disembarked on a unique self-adjusting ramp. The Atlin Cruise Terminal provides facilities for specialized vacation excursions, and B.C. Ferries provides several overnight sailings through the province’s scenic Inside Passage that run from Port Hardy on the northern tip of Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert.
Looking to the future, the Prince Rupert Port Authority engaged Det Norske Veritas (DNV) to perform a marine risk assessment, analysing all possible incidents that could occur with the increased traffic and size of vessels through 2020. Taking into consideration, the projected activities, the DNV report found that the likelihood of major incidents with vessels, including LNG carriers would be very low and few and far between.
In 2013, the Green Wave incentive program was introduced, providing reduced harbor dues to vessels that demonstrate environmental best practices which include using measures to reduce harmful emissions and being involved in related sustainability organizations, and more. This year, additional criteria beyond the Environmental Ship Index are also in place such as the Energy Efficiency Design Index and being an active member of the Green Marine Program initiative. PortVision has participated in such initiatives in other regions, such as the vessel speed reduction initiative in California and a number of emissions inventory assessments in Houston, Texas and the Gulf of Mexico region.
Total TEUs handled at the Port in June topped 52,000, an increase of nearly 9,000 compared to the same month last year. As the terminals, cargo handling and rail facilities continue to expand to meet 21st Century market demand, the Port of Prince Rupert still hangs on to its colouful past. The Port Interpretive Centre, which opened in 2012, offers visitors a compelling window into the rich area cultural history and trade of bygone eras.