News & Resources

Ship traffic and the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project

December 3, 2018 9:03 pm

In 2015, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority submitted to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project Environmental Impact Statement, which considered the impact of the project within a defined scope set out by the agency.

At the request of the agency, the port authority also submitted the Marine Shipping Addendum in 2015, which assessed project-related shipping outside of the port authority’s jurisdiction in the Salish Sea. In developing those documents, we estimated the number of ships expected as a result of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project.

Since then, there have been developments in the container shipping industry, such as an accelerated trend toward larger ship sizes and the overbuilding of shipping capacity, which led to the demise of some shipping companies and the formation of new service alliances among others, all of which motivated us to seek validation of our earlier estimates.

Results of 2018 container ship call study

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority commissioned Mercator International to provide a forecast of container ship traffic travelling through the Salish Sea and serving Pacific Northwest ports, with or without the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project.

Using forecasts for overall container volumes provided by Ocean Shipping Consultants, Mercator provided the following key findings and conclusions about ship numbers:

  • Alliances, or groups of shipping lines, work together to each offer regular, generally weekly, service to Pacific Northwest ports, including the ports of Vancouver, Seattle/Tacoma and Prince Rupert. The number of regular services to Pacific Northwest ports will not change if Roberts Bank Terminal 2 is built.
  • The total number of container ships that serve Port of Vancouver container terminals will be the same, whether or not Roberts Bank Terminal 2 is built. What will change is the size of the ships, which will be slightly larger on average if the project proceeds, and the amount of cargo loaded and unloaded in Vancouver, which will increase by approximately 33 per cent.
  • As a result of industry shipping trends, the 2018 study forecasts fewer overall ship calls to the Port of Vancouver in 2035 than there were in 2017, with or without Roberts Bank Terminal 2, despite an increase in container volumes. This is a continuation of the trend of declining container ship calls and larger ships at the Port of Vancouver since around 2005.
  • Though the total number of ships calling on the Port of Vancouver will not be affected by Roberts Bank Terminal 2, its construction will result in a higher number of container ships calling on Roberts Bank terminals and fewer calling on Vancouver’s inner harbour and Fraser River terminals.
  • If Roberts Bank Terminal 2 is not built, increasing import demand for container cargo by Canadians will go through U.S. ports. This would result in higher costs, higher transportation emissions and unrealized economic opportunity, including jobs, for Canadians.

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