The Fairview Container Terminal at the Port of Prince Rupert in British Columbia is adding a fourth container crane, even as a member of the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission questioned whether growth in U.S.-bound cargo moving through the facility might be flattening.
A new container handling gantry crane arrived at the Port of Prince Rupert's Fairview Container Terminal last week aboard the heavy cargo vessel Zheng Hua 11
, concluding its 8,300-kilometer journey from manufacturer ZPMC in Shanghai, China.
The new crane is identical to the three that were installed when Fairview opened in 2007. Each crane has a 22-container reach.
"The arrival of a fourth crane for our container operations will further enhance our ability to quickly and efficiently turn around container vessels at Fairview Terminal. It will add to our already very strong vessel production of 31-plus moves per crane hour" said Mark Schepp, senior vice president of Maher Terminals, which operates the terminal. "This further underscores the commitment of Maher Terminals to our steamship line customers and the Port of Prince Rupert."
"We congratulate Maher Terminals on the addition to their on-dock infrastructure," said Don Krusel, president and chief executive officer of the Prince Rupert Port Authority. "We anticipate how this crane will sustain the strengthening of Prince Rupert's reputation for reliability and add to its capacity for container shipping."
Since opening in 2007, Fairview Container Terminal has handled over 1.8 million TEUs.
FMC Commissioner Richard A. Lidinsky Jr. last week noted the number of U.S. bound containers that transit Prince Rupert has risen sharply in recent years to an estimated 190,000 TEUs in 2012, up from 140,845 TEUs in 2011 and 116,107 TEUs in 2010.
But he said “cargo volumes thus far for 2013 perhaps indicate the port’s annual capacity growth is beginning to flatten, with a projected yearly volume of 197,400 TEUs.”
“This lower growth could be attributed to several factors including a slowdown of the global economy; the Port of Prince Rupert nearing its maximum design capacity; and operational decisions by ocean carriers to utilize U.S. West Coast ports,” he said.
Lidinsky, the former FMC chairman, made his remarks a year after the agency released a Study of U.S. Inland Containerized Cargo Moving Through Canadian and Mexican Seaports
at the request of a group of West Coast senators and
congressmen concerned about “diversion” of U.S. cargo via Canada and
Prince Rupert, which also handles considerable quantities of cargo bound for Eastern and Central Canada, handled a total of 564,857 TEUs in 2012 (442,607 TEUs of loaded containers, 122,250 TEUs empty), up 38 percent from 410,469 TEUs in 2011.
This year, through the end of July, the port has handled 307,065 TEUs, 4 percent fewer than in the first seven months of 2012. But most of that dip is in empty containers: loaded containers were off just 0.7 percent last year's pace compared to empties, which were off 19.3 percent in the first seven months. Loaded import boxes were off 6.9 percent, but loaded export boxes were actually up 14.7 percent.
The Fairview terminal is already handling more than its original 500,000-TEU-per-year design capacity when it began operation in 2007. The port said the productivity of labor and management at Fairview has since brought capacity to an estimated 750,000 TEUs.
The Prince Rupert Port Authority has plans to increase Fairview’s capacity in two stages, first to 1.25 million TEUs, and eventually 2 million TEUs per year.
Last year Krusel said expansion of Fairview
is expected to bring an additional 500,000 TEUs of
container capacity online before 2015.
In a comprehensive study,
the port and Canadian National Railway said the purpose of the expansion is to “serve the growing needs of the shipping community in the Northwest, the Province, Canada and the Midwest U.S. “
Lidinsky said in 2011, roughly 478,000 TEUs (up from 425,264 TEUs in 2010) entered the United States via Canada, through Prince Rupert, Vancouver, Montreal, and Halifax.
“In general, the volume of cargo bound for U.S. inland destinations imported via adjacent countries has remained constant and economists anticipate a stagnant growth rate for the balance of this year,” Lidinsky said.
He noted the report on cargo diversion through Canada and Mexico released last year “posed three basic questions: first, whether there were any legal or regulatory bars to the carriage by sea and movement of U.S. inland containerized cargo entering via the Canadian or Mexican border; second, what competitive factors would drive a U.S. importer or exporter to route cargo through Mexican or Canadian ports; third, what Congress could do to 'level the playing field' in facilitating U.S. ports’ competition with other North American cross-border ports by addressing the HMT structure.
“Commission attorneys, economists, and industry experts found with regard to the first question that carriers shipping cargo through Canadian and Mexican ports violate no U.S. law, treaty, agreement, or FMC regulation," he said.
“The second question posed was reduced to several key factors that drive cargo bound for the U.S. heartland, through foreign seaports including overall shipment savings, risk mitigation through port diversification, perceived transit time benefits, avoidance of the Harbor Maintenance Tax, and rail rate disparities," he explained.
“The commission’s report concluded that Congress has many options to consider with regard to replacing the current Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) structure, to ensure maximum competitiveness for all U.S. ports,” Lidinsky said.
He said S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that gained Senate approval in May 2013, includes moderate HMT reform by mandating that more, but not all annual HMT collections, is spent on port dredging and maintenance. A House version of WRDA has yet to be introduced, but House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders said earlier this month they will try to finalize and vote on a WRDA renewal when Congress returns from vacation in September.
“After evaluating the situation over the past year, including a re-examination and assessment of domestic and global transportation developments, general economic environment, and industry conditions, continued congressional consideration of a revised HMT plan for the future is likely,” Lidinsky said. - Chris Dupin