Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Has the trail gone cold for a cold storage warehouse for Rupert?

As the fishing season once again comes to its end, disappointing as it's been, there still seemed to be more than enough trucks heading out of town this summer just past, hauling a portion of the harvest off to Vancouver based cold storage plants.

For many in the fish business, those trucks represent a cargo that could provide for jobs here, but seem forever lost, that as the much discussed, long planned creation of a cold storage unit for Prince Rupert seems destined for a back burner.

When the fishery was going at a much more hectic pace there wasn't it seemed a push for such a facility, the workload more than enough to keep, shoreworkers gainfully employed from March to almost October. Now, with the drastic decline in long term work and the impact on the community it brings, one wonders if perhaps a Cold Storage plant might not extend our season, even ones as drastically reduced as recent years have brought.

With a cold storage plant in place, fish plants could possibly carry on with processing long into the fall, maybe even offering year round employment for workers. Even beyond the processing aspect, just the current process of transporting frozen fish, the current situation of fish caught in northcoast waters and landed in Rupert being sent to Vancouver for shipment overseas would be a thing of the past. There's no reason that the various operations currently found in lower mainland communities could not be replicated here.

With a cold storage plant and one that could be tied in with the container port, the days of shipping fish and jobs out of the Rupert area could be turned around.

The subject of a cold storage operation in the area has been the thing of a political pinata over the years, we remember many mayoralty elections ago, that the call for such a plant was considered a priority for the city. Yet it seems as far off today as it was back then.

June 2009-- City of Prince Rupert backs port with $300 million in grant applications
February 2008-Port seeks to expand secondary services to Fairview container facilities
October 2006-- CN has big plans for its Northern Route
September 2006-- Council knows best!
November 2000-- Presentation concerning cold storage in coastal communities

Many a study it seems has been launched into the idea, yet no progress has been made and the fishery continues on with what seems like a perpetual decline of late.

To the north of Rupert in Wrangell, Alaska the community cold storage operation there has been the subject of much discussion of late, KBRD provides a background piece on their unit and how it has been used of late.

With many of Rupert's past industries now long gone and worries that the fishing industry may soon join them, the idea of a cold storage plant may be timely, providing a way to make the fishery relevant and find ways to help it grow.

There's an obvious need to bring in some job creation to this area and this long delayed project could be at least a partial answer to the reversal of that job drain that has been going on for years and more importantly, it could provide a way to keep the resources that are being taken from the area on north coast, offering up a chance for value added production to the resource and a chance to add to the local industrial base and keep some money and more importantly some jobs in place.

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