Vancouver Port Authority President & CEO Houston speaks to Railway Association of Canada

by Canadian Shipper

In a speech to the Railway Association of Canada last week, Vancouver Port Authority President & CEO, Captain Gordon Houston, said he welcomed the opportunity to speak 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 to 15 years," he said.

Houston noted that all of the players in Canada’s transportation network have a vital role to play to prepare Canada to compete on the international stage in the years ahead, including ports and railways, trucking companies and distribution partners. 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."

Houston stressed that Canada’s transportation system is
fundamental to the nation’s economic future, especially as the Asia-Pacific trade market expands.

"The opportunities for Canada to enhance its share of Asia-Pacific trade over the next few decades are enormous," he said. "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 5 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. 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," he said.

For the Port of Vancouver, this represents a kind of Double Jeopardy, said Houston. As the port faces unprecedented year-over-year growth in container volumes, customers in the bulk business are also moving to respond to tremendous market opportunities in China.

"I know this fact isn’t lost on our partners in the Canadian rail industry because the trains carrying Canada’s resource products to our ports for export are the same ones trying to accommodate the ever-growing volume of containers flooding our shores," he said.

As a result, added Houston, the port will require significant enhancements to the intermodal transportation network that supports British Columbia’s gateway ports.

For example, the B.C. Ports Strategy estimates that capacity on B.C.’s southern corridor transcontinental mainline rail system must be increased by 30 per cent by the year 2008.

"And we’ll require comparable enhancements to our highway system," added Houston. "And we are making progress. As a result of collaborative efforts by our terminal operators and our partners in the railway and trucking
business, the Port of Vancouver has achieved operating efficiencies that, in some cases, approach 80 per cent," he said.

Houston credited Canada’s railways for the work they’ve done to develop efficiencies in their business, adding that prioritizing the container business, so that shippers pay a premium for expedited delivery and less for regular delivery, is one way of building this.

"There are other examples of how efficiencies can and will be achieved within Canada’s transportation system. For instance, moving to a truly 24/7 operations system. Although our country’s docks, ships, trains and trucks work around the clock right now many of the off-dock facilities do not," he said.

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