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As consumers we are constantly in need of the most current product from iPads to refrigerators to running shoes. We also expect to pay a reasonable, competitive cost. Canada’s resources, in turn, supply and fuel the world, helping to create jobs and grow the global economy. In today’s interconnected world, this two-way trade can easily be taken for granted. But without vibrant ports to facilitate the exchange of high- demand goods, that relationship is at risk. Capacity growth is the biggest issue for infrastructure and a competitive supply chain. Loss of industrial land suitable for portoperations is of concern. Dredging is needed to enhance access to the Fraser River. Projects like the George Massey Tunnel replacement will boost trade while helping reduce traffic congestion and emissions.
British Columbia is North America’s gateway to Asia and our ports are key players in bridging the divide. One in every 12 workers in the Lower Mainland depends on a port-related business. It is estimated that Vancouver’s container shipping business alone generates nearly $300,000 an hour in the economy – activity that helps governments provide the services we need. There’s no such thing as status quo in international shipping. Our BC ports have a great location and offer strong value – but others are waiting to peel away our business if we don’t evolve. These things are worth remembering as important decisions are made about the future.
Our imports from China alone were worth $1,340 per Canadian in 2011. By any measure, long-term consumption patterns point to ever-increasing traffic volumes that translate directly into more port activity on the west coast. This is one reason why building a whole support system for our trade network is so important. To give just one example, Canada imports $120 million worth of running shoes, more than half from China. Much of this merchandise was shipped through B.C. ports.
The cost saving from using British Columbia’s container ports is illustrated in the following comparison. Sending a 40-foot container from Japan to Chicago is a less expensive proposition by a wide margin compared to the east coast. And on the west coast, the B.C. ports narrowly edge out the U.S. competition. (US$ per container.) The savings come mainly from the fact that it is a shorter sea voyage to the west coast – up to 17 days quicker, in fact, than via the Suez Canal to New York. It costs more than $200,000 a day to finance the voyage of a modern container ship.
The answer to why there is such intolerance – particularly in crowded Metro Vancouver – may relate to the region’s existing traffic congestion. In a recent survey of 61 cities in the Americas, Vancouver ranked behind only Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo for the worst traffic tie-ups. But if we can’t build prosperity, how can this problem be solved?
‘It’s not just oil’: Vancouver Port’s expansion delayed as NIMBYism...