Squamish's waterfront future could include a combined industrial and cruise ship terminal with Squamish Terminals.
But the company that operates Squamish's deep-sea port hasn't heard about it until now.
District of Squamish council voted Tuesday (May 18) to accept a recommendation from its Select Committee on Tourism to consider discussions with Star Shipping, the operators of Squamish Terminals, on locating a cruise ship terminal.
The Select Committee brought forward the recommendation after members took a field trip to the Nexen lands last week (May 12).
Part of the waterfront visioning process concluded earlier this spring envisioned a possible passenger ferry and cruise ship terminal off the southeast tip of the Nexen lands, at the site of the former Union Steamships dock.
But committee co-chair Bruce Bessie proposed extending Squamish Terminals to allow it to dock two container ships on the west side (towards the windsurfing spit) rather than one and adapting the other side to dock cruise ships instead of cargo.
Bessie said having cruise ships dock at the old Union dock would block the views of Shannon Falls from the Nexen lands, while cruise ships at Squamish Terminals would only block the view of the Woodfibre pulp mill.
"If we have one scar, it's over there," he said, gesturing towards Woodfibre.
"I can just see Holland American and Princess ships coming into there."
Cruise ships would also have better transportation links from the Terminals, which is serviced by rail, allowing better connections to Whistler, Bessie said.
"I've always dreamed of cruise ships pulling in and the Royal Hudson backing on to it," he said.
Extending Squamish Terminals would be more economical than building a brand-new cruise ship terminal on the Nexen lands and could be beneficial to Star Shipping, which could collect dock fees and money from leasing its facilities, he added.
Bessie confirmed in an interview last week that neither he nor the District had contacted anyone from Star Shipping about the proposal as of yet.
"It has gone as far as the mayor's office and [Economic Development Office] Lee Malleau's office and I think it was thought premature because there's a lot of development that needs to be done before you can try to attract cruise ships," he said.
Many smaller communities in B.C. are building facilities to attract more cruise ship business, including Campbell River and Prince Rupert. Bessie said Squamish has advantages over other potential ports, from the natural beauty of Howe Sound to its location as the gateway to Whistler.
"I think it's one of the factors that will turn tourism around in Squamish," he said.
Ron Anderson, president of Squamish Terminals Ltd., first heard of the proposal when contacted for comment by The Chief. He confirmed Thursday morning (May 20) that no one from the District has approached the company yet.
Anderson said the proposal was "interesting" but found it difficult to comment without knowing more details.
"I'm not sure of what they're thinking," he said. "It seems like it could be filled with challenges, but it's possible."
Anderson said the terminal would have to have a total berth length of about 450 metres (1,500 feet) to accommodate two cargo vessels on one side. Currently the terminal is 150 metres (500 feet) on one side and 120 metres (400 feet) on the other.
When asked about the potential cost, Anderson said there were too many variables that could impact the cost, but said the approximate cost to replace a 150-metre commercial berth would be around $15 million. Other types of berths for cruise ships could be simpler and might not need same kind of structure, he added.
"It is a significant cost and it would extend into the multi-millions of dollars."
Another challenge for mixing cruise ships and heavy industrial traffic at one terminal would be security, Anderson noted.
"You don't want to mix the two too closely."