Friday, May 08, 2009

Will the Port's phase two plans end up as only an illusion?

The Public Relations and Investment departments at the Port of Prince Rupert may soon find that the work load increases, that as a recent article in the Globe and Mail offers up the contrary opinion that Phase Two development may not be as sure a thing as all in Prince Rupert may wish to believe.

The article printed in the Globe and posted on their website on Friday, outlines some concerns over how the Port will be able to push ahead with development plans, especially in light of a declining economic situation and considering the current under capacity usage of the existing terminal at Fairview.

Patrick Brethour, who examined the Ports reported figures as part of his research for his article calls into question some of the interpretations of the numbers by the Port and offers up some stark assessments of his own on the immediate future for the port and perhaps how those factors may change the ambitious expansion plans for the future.

Brethour offers up his interpretation of the decline in traffic through all west coast ports, pointing out that at a 48 percent decline in the first quarter, the Port of Prince Rupert has suffered the steepest decline of all ports on the coast from Vancouver to Los Angeles.

It's the mos recent shipping values that seem to have raised the most alarm bells for the Globe writer, who suggests that despite the spin put on the recent statistics from the port, the overall situation isn't particularly happy.

Officials from the Port quoted in the article continue with the more positive timeline of the expansion project, looking forward to 2014 and beyond as their horizon, not the current levels of shipping, or any reversal of shipping fortunes brought on by the recession of late.

Brethour suggests that the trumpeting of the expansion plans will continue on, as will the environmental assessments and financing quests. His question though seems to be one of how the Port will hope to find success in their plans for expansion, if their current platform of phase one is currently running at nowhere near the expected capacity.

Add on to that the ongoing and future planned expansion of Vancouver's Deltaport complex and one wonders just how much of this available transportation grid will actually be needed in the future.

It will be interesting to note how the Port of Prince Rupert interprets and responds to the less than positive observations, information that the article provides to a national and international audience.

The article might also be of interest to a couple of guys who recently toured the local facility, as both Premier Campbell and candidate Herb Pond used the Port and its potential development as a background to the current election campaign. Both have made much of the potential of the port to create jobs with the subsequent expansion, about the only economic planning that they seem to have provided for in the current campaign.

If Mr. Brethour's article is an indication of the climate of the shipping world and of the mood of potential investors, the delivery of those much anticipated jobs may be a little further away than even they optimisitically might see.

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