Ports & Terminals

$1 Billion Rail-Barge Plan Proposed For Port Of Vancouver, Canada

A Canadian railway company located on Vancouver Island in Canada has proposed an ambitious, expensive and long-term rail-barge project to ease congestion in the Port of Vancouver and develop new sub-ports on the island. In March, Island Rail Corporation, located in the town of Victoria at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, proposed a partnership with governments and First Nations to establish a $1 billion (Canadian) freight rail service between ports in Port Alberni (located in the middle of the island) and Nanaimo (on its eastern coast). Cargoes would be railed from Port Alberni to Nanaimo and shipped by barge to the mainland.

The proposal involves ceding land back to First Nations (as Canada calls its indigenous tribes) from discontinued rail lines and negotiating with them on terms of a new logistics partnership. Dave Hayden, president of Island Rail Corporation, who was- -previously in senior management with Canadian Pacific Railway, told local news sources the company wanted to raise its own financing, with no government help, and has developed a plan that looks 100 years into the future.

With a temperate climate, Vancouver is regularly cited as one of Canada’s most livable cities and is often used as a stand-in for American cities in Hollywood films. The Port of Vancouver, located on the mainland across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver Island, is Canada’s busiest port. One logistics blog ranked Vancouver as the seventh busiest port in the Americas (north and south). About 70 percent of its imported cargoes are destined for Chicago and other American destinations, moved along by Canada’s generally lower port and railway fees, which saves shippers hundreds of dollars per container shipped. Vancouver Island itself is estimated to have 1 million residents by the early 2030s.

Port infrastructure investment has not kept up with the steady and explosive growth, though. Since 2018, freight forwarders have complained of delays and inefficiency at Canada’s largest port. A World Bank report on global port efficiency released last June ranked the Port of Vancouver at 368th out of 370 ports—or the world’s third worst port. The national government has committed $600,000 from the National Trade Corridors Fund for the Nanaimo Port Authority to study expanding container capacity at its Port Drive site and to look into the development of land near the port to support economic growth, new jobs and trade.

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