Jan 8/18 – Opinion: Port of Prince Rupert building better B.C. through trade

By Joe Rektor

Published on: January 8, 2018

Source: The Vancouver Sun

A major success story has been quietly playing out in northern B.C. at the Port of Prince Rupert over the past decade. A recent economic-impact study tells the story of a port that has grown into a key North America gateway for trade with Asia, producing widespread economic and social benefits from its international import and export operations.

In 2016, the Port of Prince Rupert shipped over $35-billion worth of goods through its terminals, making it the third-largest port by value of trade in Canada, while generating over $1 billion in economic activity in the process.

The port’s operations are directly responsible for creating over 3,100 jobs, with an average annual wage of over $80,000 for the women and men involved in moving goods to and from our international markets. When factoring in the indirect jobs from delivering supplies and services to those businesses, total employment in and around the port increases to over 5,200.

These employment numbers represent an increase of over 150 per cent over the last decade — thousands of new service jobs on the water, in terminals and logistics centres, on the railway, in trucks and many other related activities.

The people of northern B.C. communities, such as Prince Rupert, Terrace, Smithers, Burns Lake and Prince George, are among the best in the world at efficiently and reliably moving exports and imports through our gateway to their final destinations. That’s not just our opinion; we have awards from trade-industry associations and testimonials from global shippers to prove it.

Along with the Ports of Vancouver, Nanaimo, Port Alberni and other cargo-handling facilities on B.C.’s coast, the growth in international shipping activity validates British Columbians’ ability to compete in a global marketplace. Our collective role as Canada’s Pacific Gateway should be celebrated and acknowledged for its significant contributions to B.C.’s economy and quality of life.

In northern B.C., the impact of the port has been transformational.

From a trade perspective it has facilitated the opportunity for businesses to competitively access new markets for both traditional and new products, especially in growing Asian markets such as China, Japan and Korea. From an economic development perspective, it has brought not just new jobs, but also diversification that has helped to stabilize a region that often lives through the ups-and-downs of global resource price cycles.

But the port’s growth is also notable for both its sustainability and widespread benefit. It has represented economic opportunity for workers transitioning from depressed regional industries, such as commercial fishing and pulp manufacturing. And it has represented employment and business opportunities for local First Nations. In Prince Rupert, about 35 per cent of port-related workers are of First Nations heritage — a mirror of our regional population demographics.

Port growth has also improved our collective ability to invest in public infrastructure, environmental monitoring and improvement programs, and world-class navigational safety technology. By minimizing our footprint and maximizing public benefit, we have built a foundation for long-term success that’ll pay dividends in B.C. and across Canada.

The Port of Prince Rupert is on track for another record year of trade volume in 2017, and is seeing economic, employment, environmental and social opportunities continuing to increase with it. Senior government efforts to continue to open Asian markets for trade and invest in trade-related gateway infrastructure promise an even brighter future. With a collective confidence and commitment, our ability to sail the course to the Port of Prince Rupert’s full potential has never been stronger than it is today.

Joe Rektor is the interim president and CEO of the Port of Prince Rupert.