Sunday, January 25, 2009

Port still looking ahead with confidence in 2009

While global markets continue to struggle and the worldwide economic crunch claims new victims on a daily basis, the future is still considered strong for the Port of Prince Rupert, at least as far as the Port is concerned.

Improved numbers in the cruise industry and the container business helped to counter declines in the grain terminal shipments and slight decreases at Ridley Terminals for 2008, some modest increases at Fairview have the Port feeling good about the last year and still hopeful for 2009.

With the container terminal continuing to attract attention, Port officials are anticipating that the gateway express service that they provide into mid America will continue to attract shippers despite the hard economic times on the horizon. That prospect will of course depend on how deep the current recession goes or if the world trade environment deteriorates further in light of the economic crisis at the moment.

Even less certain perhaps for the local scene will be the expectations on the local cruise industry into 2009, an industry which saw one cruise line announce its decision to take Prince Rupert off it's port call list.

It's also not known what impact that the economy in 2009 will have on the Alaska cruise industry as a whole and the volumes that it traditionally delivers.

The Daily News featured the Ports interpretation of numbers and events as the front page, headline item in Friday's papers.

Port Authority finds reasons to celebrate in spite of difficult times within industry By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, January 23, 2009
Pages one and three

Despite a global economic downturn that has resulted in declining traffic through most other North American West Coast ports, the Port of Prince Rupert experienced a moderate increase in tonnage last year.

Led by a surge in container traffic through the Fairview Terminal, the Port of Prince Rupert handled 10,596,863 tonnes in 2008, a moderate increase over 2007.

During its first full year of operations, Fairview Container Terminal handled 181,890 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) from 78 vessels.

The terminal's throughput for the first six months was 42,555 TEUs, before jumping more than 300 per cent in the second half of 2008 with 139,335 TEUs, as a result of the addition of the second COSCO/CKYH Alliance service in July.

In the fourth quarter, the terminal operated at greater than 60 per cent of its 500,000 TEU per year capacity, with a throughput of 79,106 TEUs.

"The opening of the Fairview Container Terminal in 2007 was an important step toward connecting the Canadian economy to the developing economies of Asia and solidifying Canada's position as a leader in international trade in the Asia Pacific Region," said Dale MacLean, chair of the PRPA board of directors.

"The new express gateway is providing shippers with unparalleled speed and reliability, a competitive advantage in their supply chain management, while the Fairview Terminal has created a solid foundation for economic activity in Western Canada and a stimulus for new investment across the region."

PRPA President and CEO Don Krusel said the surge in traffic during the second half of 2008 is reflective of a growing confidence among shippers in the competitive advantages of moving their cargo through the new Asia-North America express gateway corridor.

"The PRPA, in conjunction with our CN, Maher Terminals and the COSCO-CKYH Alliance partners, are delivering on our commitment to providing our shipping customers with unparalleled reliability, speed and cost effectiveness," said Krusel.

"This is more crucial now than ever before because the global economic turmoil is drastically affecting their businesses. The competitive advantages of shipping through Prince Rupert are delivering value to their bottom lines," said Krusel.

Ridley Terminals Inc. (RTI) handled 4,847,031 tonnes in 2008, down slightly from 5,085,771 tonnes in 2007.

RTI experienced an increase in coking coal, petroleum coke and wood pellets, but a decrease of nearly 300,000 tonnes of coal as a result of production cutbacks among its coal-producing customers.

Also declining was throughput at Prince Rupert Grain (PRG), which decreased 26.3 per cent in the calendar year, from 5,098,402 tonnes to 3,759,517 tonnes, as a result of a 33.6 per cent drop in wheat traffic. However, PRG, which handles about 30 per cent of grains moving through Canadian West Coast ports, saw an increase in barley, canola and grain screenings in 2008.

Prince Rupert did experience its best cruise season in five years of operations, welcoming 63 ships and a record 103,635 passengers, up from 99,135 in 2007. The 2008 season also saw a 21 per cent increase in passengers participating in shore excursion tours, and passengers spent nearly $2.4 million in the city on tours and excursions in 2008, up 32.4 per cent from 2007.

The total economic impact of the cruise industry in Prince Rupert is estimated to have exceeded $10 million in 2008, but will be significantly less in 2009.

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