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Work begins on expansive Vancouver container terminal

Grant Cameron
Work begins on expansive Vancouver container terminal
VANCOUVER FRASER PORT AUTHORITY - Cranes and a container vessel at the Centerm Expansion Project and South Shore Access Project at sunrise.

Heavy equipment is being brought on site and prep work has started for a large, multi-facetted, multi-site construction and expansion project at one of the largest and busiest container terminals in Vancouver.

The venture, called the Centerm Expansion Project and South Shore Access Project, includes a series of improvements to an existing container terminal as well as port-area roads along the south shore of the Burrard Inlet.

The terminal is being reconfigured to accommodate an increase in container traffic. A new overpass is also being built along with dredging work and restoration of a large area for marine habitat.

“It’s at the very beginning but we expect to ramp up going into the fall,” explained Gilles Assier, director of container terminal construction at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) who is overseeing the project. “Right now, we’re doing some of the preparations such as building a temporary parking lot.”

Centennial Expansion Partners (CXP) joint venture was chosen to do the work. The partnership consists of three companies – Dragados Canada Inc.,  Fraser River Pile & Dredge, and Jacob Bros. Construction.

The project has been discussed since 2015. Over the years, a lot of time was spent consulting with stakeholders and the community and local Indigenous groups, followed by a thorough environmental assessment to comply with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Permits also had to be obtained from Environment Canada.

“It’s a big endeavour and a large project,” said  Assier, noting that many stakeholders are being impacted and changes had to be made to the plans and the scope of the project tweaked many times, which takes time.

Assier said prep work is now underway to get ready for work to be done at the various sites. Construction of the parking lot should be done soon and equipment is being mobilized.

A big part of the project will be the reconfiguration and expansion of the Centerm container terminal to accommodate a 60-per-cent increase in container traffic by having added only 15 per cent more land.

“We are reconfiguring the terminal and adding some additional  yard as well as equipment, “ said Assier. “Refrigerated containers will be moved and a new container operating facility will be built.”

The container terminal work will start in the fall, he said, and includes demolition of an existing building and moving other structures.

Waterfront Road next to the port, which has been heavily used over the years, will be fixed, changed and expanded so it is a continuous port road from Canada Place to an entrance at McGill Road.

An overpass at Heatley Avenue will also be removed and a new overpass will be built at Centennial Road to bypass rail tracks.

Soon, dredging work will also begin near the Centerm terminal. The dredging is being done within a window established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in order to reduce the overall impact on fish habitat.

In addition, and to offset the impact of the project, crews will be restoring five hectares of low-value marine habitat into higher-value intertidal flat, eelgrass and rock reef habit south of the Maplewood Flats Conservation Area. The location was identified as a restoration priority for Tsleil-Waututh Nation and other Indigenous groups.

The port authority is also installing equipment to help reduce greenhouse gases, including electrified, rail-mounted gantry cranes in place of the current diesel-powered, rubber-tire gantry cranes and is putting in a second shore-power connection on the newly expanded berth, so that if two ships with the necessary equipment are in port at the same time, they can both switch off their diesel-powered engines.

Various components of the project will wrap up at different times, however substantial completion is scheduled for December 2021.

Assier said the projects are being built to help meet anticipated demand for containers imported and exported though the Port of Vancouver.

“We’re always looking at future growth and the future needs for any type of product,” he said.

All in, the improvements will increase the maximum container-handling capacity at Centerm by two-thirds, to 1.5-million 20-foot equivalent unit containers, or TEUs, from 900,000. Centerm handles about 20 per cent of containerized goods that are shipped through the port.

Maksim Mihic, general manager of DP World (Canada) Inc., operator of the Centerm container terminal, said the project will add much-needed capacity and increase efficiency through process improvements.

“As a result, Canada’s trans-Pacific gateway will be more competitive as Canadian exports shift from North American to Asian markets,” he added. “Also, the expansion will secure existing Canadian jobs while creating more well-paying jobs in the port industry.”

In announcing the start of the venture, Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer of the VFPA, said the projects will enable the port to keep up with growing trade.

“These projects are being built to help meet anticipated near-term demand for containers shipped through the Port of Vancouver and will help accommodate Canada’s trade in goods like imported clothing, food, and electronics, and exports such as pulp, paper, lumber, and specialty grains,” he said.

According to figures released by the VFPA, construction of the projects alone will create 350 full-time equivalent jobs per year and, because of the increase in flow of containers, generate another 800 to 900 new, good, well-paying jobs on site as well as another 1,700 logistics jobs along the supply chain.

While the project will be challenging because the terminal is very busy, the work is very complex and several worksites will be going on at the same time while the port is still operating, Assier said safety will remain top of mind.

“You have a lot of heavy equipment moving around,” he said. “That makes it very challenging but a super-interesting project.”

VANCOUVER FRASER PORT AUTHORITY – Aerial view of the south shore of Burrard Inlet where work recently began on the Centerm Expansion Project and South Shore Access Project.


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