Recap: Port Metro Vancouver CEO Robin Silvester's annual address

Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:45 AM - Tue Nov 26, 2013 02:00 PM
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Port Metro Vancouver President and CEO Robin Silvester (right) participates in a Q&A with CBC Radio host Rick Cluff (left), following Silvester's annual address to The Vancouver Board of Trade on Nov. 26, 2013. Photo by Sara Borck Photography

Robin Silvester, President and CEO of Port Metro Vancouver, delivered his annual address to The Vancouver Board of Trade on Nov. 26, 2013, touching upon the Port’s current projects and programs, as well as what lies ahead for Canada’s largest and busiest port.

As the most diversified port in North America, Port Metro Vancouver handles $172 billion in goods – or one-fifth of Canada’s total goods trade – with more than 160 economies annually. It manages land, water and assets along 600 kilometres of shoreline in 16 Lower Mainland municipalities, and acts as one of the region’s most important job creators. 

A dynamic gateway for domestic and international trade and tourism, Port Metro Vancouver strengthens the foundation of the regional economy, and plays a very important role in the national economy as well.

Below are Silvester's remarks, as delivered to The Vancouver Board of Trade.

[Check against delivery]

Thank you. And welcome everyone. It’s an honour to be here today. The Vancouver Board of Trade represents what’s best about BC. Creative, forward-looking, and pragmatic. As champions of an open economy, you are critical to the success of the Asia Pacific Gateway. Together, we are truly building BC for the next century.
Just as we celebrate the foresight of those who built the infrastructure that guaranteed BC’s prosperity in the last century. 100 years from now, British Columbians will judge us for the foresight we show today.

This afternoon, I want to speak to you about some of the decisions that are before us, update you on the Port’s progress, and talk about how it fits with our vision of a sustainable future. But most importantly, I want to hear from you.

So, to make sure that we have enough time for your questions, I am going to break with tradition and do something, apparently, I am not generally known for. I am going to keep my remarks short. No promises. But I will try.

So with that in mind, let me start by reminding you of a few key facts about the Port.

  •  Port Metro Vancouver is Canada’s largest Port, facilitating close to 20 per cent of Canada’s entire trade in goods.
  •  Fourth largest tonnage port in North America.
  •  The most diversified and largest export port on the continent.
  •  We manage 640 kilometers of shoreline, bordering 16 municipalities, and several First Nations.
  •  Indeed, we are the hub of one of North America’s most important economic corridors, generating tens of thousands of good jobs, and adding almost $10 billion to the gross domestic product.

Nonetheless, given the still-fragile state of the world economy, you might ask how we are fairing. Good question. I am very pleased to report that 2013 looks like it will be another strong year, thanks in large part to the confidence our customers -- many of you in this room -- have placed in us. Through June, we handled 66.4 million tons of cargo. And we set a new record for container cargo – 1.34 million containers at mid-year. As well:

  •  Grain volumes were up 5 per cent.
  •  Potash – up 26 per cent.
  •  Coal – up 9 per cent.
  •  Bulk volumes overall – up 26 per cent.

These numbers tell us something very important. High-quality Canadian commodities are in demand. And Port Metro Vancouver remains one of BC’s shining economic lights. But the Gateway's success breeds its own set of challenges. Most notably, the challenges associated with growth. And here, too, I believe we are leading the way by setting a strong, positive example. Everyone in this room knows how important it is for business to build public trust, to DEMONSTRATE that we have the right intentions, and that we can deliver on our economic, and environmental, and social promises. That’s why the Port has invested enormous energy and time in community consultation. I am very passionate about that work. And I am proud of how far we’ve come.

  •  Last year, the Port participated in more than 600 community events attended by more than 680,000 people – that’s almost 1 in 3 people living in this region.
  •  Our three dedicated community liaison groups bring people together to find solutions to common problems.
  •  We’ve introduced new ways for people to interact with the Port -- such as our forum, our mobile app, and our new Facebook page.
  •  And we’re walking the walk on sustainability– measuring our progress every year against well-established external benchmarks, and sharing this with the public through our annual Sustainability Report.

Listening, learning, responding -- those are the touchstones for sustainable growth. And at the Port, they guide our work -- particularly when it comes to protecting our environment. In the Lower Mainland, there is no more important task than this. It’s not hard to see why. 2.6 million people on a piece of land surrounded by oceans, mountains, and an international border. One million more people expected to join us in just the next 25 years. We ask a lot of the land. And sometimes that can create friction, and lead to economic uncertainty. So that’s why last year -- to this same audience -- I put forward a proposal that I believe will help steer us in the right direction.

An Industrial Land Reserve. Land that is set aside for industrial use. Not piece by piece, municipality by municipality. But on a provincial basis, with the broader public and economic interest in mind. Not only to protect the industrial land we have, but also to create and incentivize the creation of new industrial land. It’s an idea whose time has come. Just as the ALR protects BC farmland and farmers, an ILR will protect BC industry and BC jobs. The response to my proposal has been very positive. Business people, First Nations, and environmental organizations understand that we need to secure industrial land, so that jobs and the environment are not in conflict. So that investors have certainty. So that important projects can move ahead. And so that sensitive environmental habitats and farmland are protected. But the Port can’t do this alone.

I want to thank the Board of Trade for taking a lead on this issue, and encouraging others to do the same. Achieving a stable regional land use plan is critical to our vision for the Asia-Pacific Gateway. A vision that has resulted in $9 billion in infrastructure improvements over the last eight years in the Vancouver Gateway alone.

Let me pause to put that number in perspective:

Right now, everyone is marveling at the size of the Panama Canal expansion. If ever there was an example of a nation-building project, the Panama Canal would be it. But as the head of one of the world’s largest shipping companies reminded me recently – the Panama Canal expansion may be big. But we’re even bigger. 50 per cent MORE is being invested in the Vancouver Gateway than in the Panama Canal. That tells you something. We may not always see it, but the Vancouver Gateway is what modern-day nation-building looks like. And our investment is paying off – making Port Metro Vancouver the gateway of choice for shipping lines and their customers; and laying the foundation for the next generation of Gateway expansion. Projects like the Massey Tunnel replacement. An essential piece of the Gateway infrastructure, improving the flow of goods on the Fraser River – an economic artery that generates as much value as the St. Lawrence Seaway. Or other key projects like:

  •  The South Shore Corridor project – a development that will provide better access to the South Shore terminals, a critical load centre for Canada's high value exports.
  •  The Deltaport Terminal Road and Rail Improvement Project, which serves Canada's largest container terminal.
  •  The Low Level Road Project in North Vancouver that is creating capacity in a port area that on its own would already be the largest bulk port in Canada.
  •  And the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor improvements, from Langley to Tsawwassen, that are increasing the efficiency of existing terminals and creating capacity for a new terminal.

These projects are the glue that holds the Gateway together. The connecting pieces that allow us to move goods efficiently while mitigating impacts on communities and, that create the conditions to attract even more private sector investment in Gateway infrastructure. Investments like the $300 million upgrade of Neptune Terminals and the $230 million expansion of Westshore Terminals. But we can’t stand still. The global economy will not wait. We have to be ready to meet the coming demand, ready to seize the opportunity presented by Asian expansion and growing global trade. And that’s why Port Metro Vancouver is proposing the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project.

  •  A more than $2 billion investment in a new marine terminal located just northwest of the existing Roberts Bank terminals.
  •  5.5 kilometers offshore from the mainland.
  •  Designed to accommodate the simultaneous mooring of three large modern container vessels.
  •  Capacity for 2.4 million containers every year.
  •  A project that will generate 18,000 + jobs.
  •  A project that will allow us to meet growing demand and keep our Port the most competitive in North America.
  •  A project that is as important to the Canadian economy in this century as Deltaport was in the last.

It’s challenging. It’s complex. And to see it through, we will need to work harder than ever before. That means a full commitment to a comprehensive community consultation and engagement process. It means building on our technical and scientific expertise, accumulated over decades of studying our coastal environment. We know as well as anyone in the world how to protect our habitat, mitigate risks, and operate in our coastal water, because we've been doing it successfully for generations. It means world-class environmental assessment and safeguards to protect our shoreline. And it means ensuring British Columbians see the tangible economic and social benefits in their own lives and in their own communities. Terminal 2 community consultation has been underway for two years – and is continuing. The input we receive will be incorporated at every stage of the project. And First Nations are and will be fully consulted and involved.

We are committed to seeing this project through for our customers, and for our country. But we can’t do it without all of you in this room. The Port is working day in and day out on this project. Listening. Addressing concerns. Building trust. Because every British Columbian will benefit from the enormous economic opportunity Terminal 2 will create. We have to get this right. We can expand trade. We can protect our environment. And we can improve the quality of life for every British Columbian.

These values aren't in conflict, they are the values of tomorrow’s economic leaders. And they are the values Port Metro Vancouver holds today.

From working with all of you in this room, I know we have what it takes to realize our dreams for an open, prosperous, sustainable province at the leading edge of tomorrow’s economy. To build a Gateway for trade that will help secure our economy for this young century – just like our forebears secured the economy for the last century.

Thank you so much for being here. Now I hope I have kept to my promise, and kept my remarks short – okay, short by my standards. But this is not the last you’ll hear from me today.

If I could ask you to turn your attention to the screens behind me, I want to play a short film that puts all this activity into context and explains what it means for our Port communities.

I am extremely proud of what we are achieving, and excited by the opportunities ahead.



Title Sponsor:


Supporting Sponsors:

Global Container Terminals Canada
Cargo Logistics Canada

Community Partner:

Hatch Mott MacDonald


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