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B.C. contractors and port awaiting trial dates for fisheries violations

Jean Sorensen
B.C. contractors and port awaiting trial dates for fisheries violations

A trial date for several B.C. construction companies involved in a Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) dispute regarding the work carried out at the recently completed Prince Rupert Fairview Terminal Phase 2A northern expansion is still being awaited.

Federal authorities in November cited 10 counts of violating the Fisheries Act against the companies as well as the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) and DP World Prince Rupert Inc., part of one of the world’s largest port facility operators.

The sworn Department of Fisheries and Oceans statement by officer Edward Stacey, and released as a public document, alleges that DP World, PRPA, and contractors Fraser River Pile and Dredge (GP) Inc.(FRDP), BelPacific Excavating & Shoring Limited Partnership, BEL Contracting, FRDP-BEL Gateway Joint-Venture violated the Fisheries Act during the construction of the Fairview container terminal expansion between the period of Nov. 30, 2014 and Nov. 1, 2015.

While CEO of FRPD Sarah Clarke said her company is not issuing any statement regarding the charges as it is before the courts, a project description on the company website outlined the extensive work: “The project scope, undertaken in 2015, included the development of a new berth expansion, upgrades to the existing caisson wharf, new mooring dolphin, new empty container stacking yard, and new container storage yards. Despite challenging ground conditions and ongoing operations at the terminal, the project was completed on time and on budget.” The project completed 2017.

FRPD is an award-winning company with a legacy of marine work dating back over a century in B.C. In 2018, prior to the charges being laid, FRPD and its joint-venture partner, BEL Contracting, were awarded a 2018 Silver Award of Excellence from the Vancouver Regional Construction Association for their work on the Fairview container terminal’s northern project at the Prince Rupert port. The two companies received the award in the category for construction valued at over $50 million. BEL Contracting is a civil construction company with nearly 50 years of experience.

“We have extensive experience in the areas of underground utility installation, road and highway construction, earthworks, drainage, fisheries works, retaining wall construction, aggregate production, road grading and traffic control,” the company’s website said.

Request for comment from the parent company of BEL companies was not answered.

The 10 counts allege that the entities charged did not take adequate measures to protect commercial and Aboriginal fish stocks and contain sediment during construction or report any such failures to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The penalty under the act can be as high as a $200,000 fine per count.

Both the provincial court registry and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) confirmed that that trial date was still under consideration.

“The PPSC has no further information to provide at this time,” Natalie Houle, communications officer for the PPSC said via an email.

DFO launched an investigation and subsequently laid 10 charges in November 2018. In March, defence lawyers for DP World and the port appeared in Prince Rupert provincial court, with the lawyers representing the contractors calling in from Vancouver. At that time, the defence lawyers indicated they planned to challenge warrants, used for collecting evidence by the DFO, under the Charter of Rights and Freedom.  Crown prosecutor Adrienne Switzer of the PPSC told the court at the hearing that 11 weeks would be needed for the trail with the first and last week held in Prince Rupert. The remainder of the trial will take place in Vancouver.

Headquartered in Dubai, DP world announced in mid-2018 it is going ahead with the southern Phase 2B expansion of the terminal.

A PPRA press release at the time said: “The Fairview Phase 2B project follows the 2017 completion of Fairview Phase 2A, which increased the terminal capacity by 500,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) containers to its current capacity of 1.35 million TEUs. Construction on Phase 2B will begin in mid-2019.”

The southern expansion will expand the container yard from its current 32 hectares to 41 hectares and add two new rubber-tired gantry cranes as well as an eighth dock gantry crane. The existing maintenance and administration buildings will be relocated to create additional container storage capacity.

The Phase 2B project will further expand on-dock rail capacity with the addition of 6,680 feet of working track, for a total of 24,680 feet of on-dock rail by 2022.

DP World’s Vancouver office did not respond to a request for construction information.

Parent company DP World Ltd, a Dubai government-owned ports operator, in early 2015 agreed to purchase the rights from Maher Terminal (owned by a unit of the Deutsche Bank AG) to operate Fairview container terminal for $580 million.  The sale completed later in 2015 with Maher having already announced the terminal Phase 2A expansion plan.  

The Fairview container terminal was the first inter-modular (rail to ship) facility in North America when it opened and Maher Terminal LLC obtained operating rights from 2007 to 2015. The facility went through an initial expansion under Maher’s operation.

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