Only four ports on Canada’s west coast are connected to the North American Class 1 rail and highway infrastructure.
The biggest Canadian port by volume, Port Metro Vancouver, evolved from a federal harbour authority to a federal Crown corporation and is governed out of Ottawa. As early as the 1920s, Canada could see how important a Pacific Gateway was to Canada and began a process to manage the various Greater Vancouver waterfronts with the national interest in mind.
Prince Rupert Port Authority operates under the Canada Marine Act as an autonomous and commercially viable agency and has responsibility for all federally owned waterfront properties on Prince Rupert Harbour.
Kitimat is the third largest port on the west coast of Canada in terms of international trade, behind Port Metro Vancouver and the Port of Prince Rupert. Kitimat is a deep-sea port, and like all west coast ports, is ice-free.
Squamish Terminals is unique in that it is the only west coast port not under federal jurisdiction, as well as being located on provincial Crown land and operating under a long-term lease with Grieg Star Shipping based in Bergen, Norway.
Squamish Terminals traces its history back to the 1960s, when the extension of the BC Railway from the interior and the expansion of pulp production in B.C. led to the opportunity for the development of a new port on the south coast. Support and enthusiastic advocacy were led by Pat Brennan, who was then mayor of Squamish.
Squamish Terminals is a deep-water, breakbulk terminal, and in 1972, it began serving customers in western Canada, across North America and around the world.
Breakbulk cargos are goods that must be loaded individually, not in containers or in bulk as with oils, grains or minerals. The term “breakbulk” refers to a system of transporting cargo as separate pieces in a ship’s hold. Breakbulk cargo is transported in bags, boxes, crates, drums, barrels or slings as well as unit loads of items, which can be secured to pallets or skids.
Squamish Terminals most commonly ships forest products such as wood pulp, panel, lumber and logs, steel products such as pipe, rebar, coil, h-beam and steel plate, or special project cargo such as yachts, trailers, windmill parts and turbines. These shipped products arrive and depart Squamish Terminals by road and rail. Every day, CN Rail delivers rail cars to the port with products for shipment overseas and sends cars from the port for distribution throughout North America.
The pulp products alone, which comprise the single largest commodity that is shipped through the port, are valued at more than $1 billion annually. This pulp comes from mills all around B.C. and western Canada and supports thousands of forestry workers out on the land and mill workers in communities. With regard to just pulp products, when a multiplier effect is applied, the access to world markets that Squamish Terminals provides is critical to the livelihoods of a large number of Canadians.
While we know that Squamish is “connected,” it is not always in the way that first comes to mind.