News & Resources

A history of port operations at Roberts Bank

May 9th, 2019 8:32 pm

Did you know terminals have been operating at Roberts Bank since the 1970s?

It all started in the late 1960s, when coal company Kaiser Resources had an immediate need for a coal port site and terminal facilities on the southern B.C. coast due to a contractual agreement with Mitsubishi and Company.

The only possible location on the south coast of B.C. was in the Fraser River delta area because it was close to railway services. Out of all the proposed locations, Roberts Bank was selected because it best fulfilled all the needed requirements for a new port location: direct, uncongested railway routes; large areas of level land; deep-water access for ships, direct access to highway infrastructure, and minimal disturbance to bird and fish life.

Construction started on July 2, 1968.The land mass to support the terminal and the road to provide access to the site (known as the causeway) was completed on April 8, 1969. In 1970 the coal terminal officially opened. This terminal is now called Westshore Terminals.

Growth continued through the 1980s, and multiple expansions occurred at Roberts Bank, including the creation of four new land masses, or pods. In 1984, the Roberts Bank Coal Port Facility’s new handling and loading facilities were located on pods 1 and 2. Pods 3 and 4 remained vacant and awaited the growth that was coming only a few short years later.

In 1992, an environmental assessment was undertaken to turn pod 4 into a container handling terminal, now known as Deltaport. Though no formal environmental assessment was required because the pods were already built, the port authority at the time established an in-house environmental appraisal procedure because it wanted to ensure the project met current standards and legislation.

This appraisal involved a three-member independent review panel, which conducted a technical review of the proposed container terminal and public hearings. After considerable discussion with the public and deliberations by the panel, the panel concluded that the Deltaport container terminal development at Roberts Banks was acceptable.

Construction of the Deltaport facility on Pod 4 occurred between 1994 and 1996, and the terminal officially opened on June 8, 1997.

The Deltaport container facility was expanded into Pod 3 because of increasing growth in containerized trade. After another environmental review, the expansion began construction in 2000 and opened in late 2000.

In 2003, the port authority led an expansion project to increase container-handling capacity by adding a third berth (a ship’s allotted space at a dock) to Deltaport, completed in 2010.

The port authority is now proposing the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project—108 hectares of new industrial land in deep water at Roberts Bank—because trade continues to increase, especially Canadian demand for imports. That terminal would be operated by a third-party company, similar to all other terminals at the Port of Vancouver, and the port authority would recoup its investment through lease payments and fees paid by terminal users.

There is a long track record of success at building at Roberts Bank, most of it led by federal port authorities, operating in the public interest, and mandated to protect the environment.

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