Roberts Bank Terminal 2 is a proposed new marine container terminal on Canada’s west coast led by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. As part of our federal mandate to protect the environment and consider local communities, we conducted a series of studies to better understand existing conditions at Roberts Bank. We established technical advisory groups to gather expert advice on the Roberts Bank ecosystem. Environmental work, including scientific field work at Roberts Bank, is ongoing and we continue to engage with communities and consult with Indigenous groups. If approved and built, Roberts Bank Terminal 2 will play a critical role in supporting Canadian businesses, exporters, and consumers across the country. The project will create local, well-paying jobs, and will help strengthen the Canadian economy.
The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project involves the construction of a new three-berth marine container terminal in the Port of Vancouver in Delta, British Columbia. The terminal would be located in deep, subtidal waters to minimize environmental effects. The project, if approved by the federal government, will be funded by the financially self-sufficient port authority and private investment, not tax dollars.
About the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is the federal agency responsible for the stewardship of the Port of Vancouver, Canada’s largest port. Our mandate is to enable Canada’s trade objectives, ensuring goods are moved safely through the Port of Vancouver, while protecting the environment and considering local communities. We work in the public interest on behalf of all Canadians.
Part of our role is to ensure the Port of Vancouver is ready to handle Canada’s future trade. This includes ensuring land is available and developed for trade, including terminals, roads and support services.
We have identified that Canada’s trade in containers is growing, and that the West Coast will run out of marine container terminal space by the mid- to late- 2020s. By building the land for Roberts Bank Terminal 2 and leasing it to a terminal operator, the port authority will help ensure our national trade objectives are met, in a manner that protects the environment and considers local communities.
Overall importance of Roberts Bank Terminal 2 to Canada
The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project is essential to meeting Canada’s trade ambitions with Asia.
- $1 in every $3 of Canada’s trade in goods outside of North America goes through the Port of Vancouver
- Historic data and independent forecasts show that demand for trade of goods shipped in containers is growing
- The west coast of Canada will run out of room to manage growing Canadian trade with Asia as early as the mid- to late-2020s
- The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project is the best option to meet growing demand for goods shipped in containers
Economic benefits of the project
The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project would support economic growth for all Canadians and create thousands of well-paying jobs.
- The construction of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project would create over 18,000 jobs over six years
- Annually, its operation would support over 17,300 jobs, including over 1,500 jobs directly related to terminal operations
- The terminal, once operating, would add about $631 million in government taxes and $3.0 billion in GDP annually
How the environment will be protected
We have a federal mandate to protect the environment—something we take very seriously. This is supported by our strong track record of mitigating potential effects of projects, and developing offsets, including habitat, in the Fraser River estuary. As we continue work on the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project, we look forward to working with our partners and Indigenous groups as we take meaningful steps to protect the environment at Roberts Bank.
- The terminal is located in deep water, far from sensitive habitat closer to shore
- More than 77 studies by more than 100 independent professional scientists, with input from Indigenous groups and regulators, were undertaken over four years and have helped shape the environmental assessment of the project
- 82 project commitments aimed to integrate and build on consultation input including:
- Construction environmental management sub-plans
- Operation environmental management sub-plans
- Follow-up program elements
- Additional commitments, including measures related to Indigenous groups, community and regulator topics of interest
Extensive and ongoing consultation part of project development
The port authority has a mandate to consider local communities in all development and operations. We have already completed extensive consultation and will conduct more in later stages of the project.
- Consultation and engagement are ongoing, with more than 440 meetings with regulators, Indigenous groups, local government, stakeholders and the public to date
- The project design has been altered, and additional mitigation measures added in response to feedback received
The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project
What is the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project?
Roberts Bank Terminal 2 is a proposed new three-berth marine terminal located approximately 5.5 kilometres offshore at Roberts Bank in Delta, B.C., on Canada’s west coast. The terminal will serve container ships bringing a wide variety of goods including items such as clothing, electronics, food, auto parts, manufacturing parts, furniture and household goods. The terminal will also serve overseas markets, shipping export containers loaded with a range of Canadian goods including pulp, lumber, crops such as lentils and legumes, grain, fruits, and specialty items like wine and craft beer. As part of the project, the existing causeway would be widened to accommodate additional road and rail infrastructure and the existing tug basin would be expanded to accommodate a second tug operations contractor.
Why build another terminal at Roberts Bank?
Roberts Bank is an established trade corridor and a vital part of Canada’s trade with Asia. Already home to Canada’s largest container terminal, Roberts Bank has deep water necessary to accommodate large container ships, and is located close to major transportation corridors. Substantial infrastructure investments have been made in the last decade in anticipation of increased trade through Roberts Bank, including the $1.2 billion South Fraser Perimeter Road and the $300 million Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program.
After a rigorous assessment of alternatives for the project, the location and orientation of the terminal was selected to be built in deep water, thereby reducing effects to the surrounding sensitive marine environment.
What happens if we don’t build Roberts Bank Terminal 2?
Demand for goods shipped in containers is growing. Forecasts indicate container traffic on Canada’s west coast will nearly double from 3.5 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2014, to 6.5 million TEUs by 2030.
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is proposing to build the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project to meet forecasted demand because existing container terminals on the West Coast—in Vancouver and Prince Rupert—will reach capacity by the mid- to late-2020s. If we don’t have the container capacity that we need, Canadian importers and exporters would likely be forced to use ports on the west coast of the United States. This would result in increased transportation costs which would be passed on to Canadian consumers and export markets.
More information about the need for the project can be found here.
Who will pay for the project?
Canada Port Authorities are required to be self-funded and competitive. They earn revenues by leasing port lands and waters and through fees to use the port. There is no risk to tax payers because the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project will be funded by the port authority and private investment, not tax dollars. The investment will be recuperated by the proceeds of the long-term lease of the terminal operator and terminal user fees. The estimated cost of the project is more than $2 billion.
When will the project be built?
Subject to environmental approvals and permitting, market conditions and a final investment decision, construction of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project could begin in 2024 and would take approximately six years to complete. Our goal, through building the project, is to ensure that Canada is able to meet trade plans and objectives through to the mid- to late-2030s.
How has the container shipping industry changed over the last decade?
Since the start of the environmental assessment for this project in 2013, there have been developments in the container shipping industry, such as larger ship sizes and the formation of new shipping company alliances. This motivated the port authority to commission 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.
The conclusion of that study was that the total number of container ships that serve the Port of Vancouver container terminals will be the same, whether or not the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project is built. What will change is the distribution of ships calling to container terminals in the Port of Vancouver, and the amount of cargo loaded and unloaded, which will increase by approximately 33%.
Planning for the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project
Has the port authority assessed alternative options?
The development of a second container terminal at Roberts Bank has been contemplated since the late 1990s. Since that time, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has engaged with regulators, Indigenous groups and stakeholders to refine the project and identify alternative options for carrying it out.
In planning to meet demand, the port authority explored and pursued a number of opportunities to increase container terminal capacity. We have:
- Increased the size and efficiency of existing container terminals
- Improved road and rail connections, to handle more containers
- Explored whether other port terminals could be converted to handle containers
- Examined the possibility of building a new terminal
The port authority has worked with terminal operators to increase capacity at existing terminals. The four existing terminals at the Port of Vancouver—Deltaport, Vanterm, Centerm and Fraser Surrey Docks—have undergone improvements in the past decade to maximize their capacity. Further improvements are planned at Deltaport and are underway at Centerm.
Planned improvements to increase container capacity at the Port of Vancouver as well as at the Port of Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia are at various stages of the planning and permitting processes, and will alleviate capacity constraints on the West Coast until RBT2 can be delivered.
A new marine container terminal requires:
- Deep water
- Flat land
- Access to the national road and rail network
- A local population base to provide sufficient labour
The port authority evaluated the technically and economically feasible options for delivering increased container capacity and determined that the proposed location for a new terminal, Roberts Bank Terminal 2, was the best option to accommodate Canada’s growing trade with the least environmental impact. In the Federal Review Panel Report, the independent review panel concluded that our assessment of alternative means was appropriate.
When will Canada run out of West Coast marine container terminal capacity?
With Canada’s west coast projected to run out of container capacity by the mid- to late- 2020s, a new container terminal is needed to help Canada meet its trade ambitions with Asia. The environmental process for a new project is lengthy and can only begin after several years of preparation and environmental study. We believe that the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project can deliver this urgently needed capacity.
How are you working with Indigenous groups?
The port authority has undertaken a consultation program with 46 Indigenous groups, which will continue throughout the federal review and permitting of the project and, should the project proceed, into construction and operation. Topics discussed include environmental effects of the project, marine shipping associated with the project, proposed mitigation, follow-up program, and a legacy benefit fund for projects of importance to Indigenous groups.
The port authority is also discussing mutual benefit agreements with Indigenous groups, and we have reached agreement on a number of mutual benefit agreements, to-date.
The federal government is also conducting its own consultation with Indigenous groups relative to the project.
A thorough, rigorous environmental assessment
Where in the environmental assessment process is the project?
The proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project has been undergoing a federal environmental review since 2013. In 2016, an independent review panel was appointed by the minister of environment and climate change to lead the assessment, under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
The review phase of the environmental assessment concluded in August 2019 with the close of the public record, following a six-week public hearing. The independent review panel evaluated what they heard and the information received throughout the environmental assessment process and incorporated it into their final Federal Review Panel Report. This report was submitted by the independent panel to the minister of environment and climate change on March 27, 2020. In August 2020, the federal government requested we provide further information through an information request. As a result, the federal timeline for decision-making has been paused, and will resume once the information provided satisfies the request. We will look to provide this information to the federal government in summer 2021.
What type of work was done as part of the environmental assessment?
As the proponent of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority was required to undertake studies to meet the requirements of the environmental impact statement guidelines issued by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. The studies were carried out by professional scientists, and are summarized in the environmental impact statement submitted by the port authority to federal and provincial regulators in March 2015.
In total, more than 100 professional scientists, and input from Indigenous groups and regulators, contributed to the 77 studies that support the environmental impact statement.
More information regarding studies undertaken, including final reports, can be found here.
Benefits from the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project
What economic benefits will the project bring to Canada, British Columbia, and Metro Vancouver?
If approved, the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project will provide substantial benefits to Canada, British Columbia and Metro Vancouver. The terminal would accommodate increased demand for trade, and play an important role in supporting Canadian businesses shipping goods to and from the rest of the world, supporting Canada’s economic growth. At a local level, the project will provide employment opportunities during project construction and terminal operation, and economic benefits and opportunities to Indigenous groups and neighbouring communities.
During construction, the project would create more than 18,000 person-years of employment over a six-year construction period. Once operating, on-terminal and off-terminal activities would support more than 17,300 well-paying, full-time jobs on an ongoing basis.
The construction of the project would add $2.3 billion GDP to the Canadian economy, and its operation, including on-terminal and off-terminal activities, would add $3.0 billion GDP each year.
More detail about the benefits of the project can be found here.
Will the terminal be automated?
Part of our role is to ensure that land is available and developed for trade, including terminals, roads and support services, but we do not operate terminals. The terminal operator will largely determine the final configuration of the terminal. However, it is important to note that all of the work we’ve completed to date has planned for a semi-automated terminal and we assume the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project will be partially automated, similar to Deltaport container terminal and other newer container terminals around the world. We have estimated that the terminal will support over 1,500 new, family-supporting, on-terminal jobs, in addition to over 15,800 new supply chain jobs off the terminal.