Canada appears likely to get its first new west coast grain terminal in three decades.
Peter Xotta, vice-president of planning and operations with Port Metro Vancouver, said a number of grain companies are considering building a new terminal at the port.
“It looks pretty clear that there will be at least one. I wouldn’t want to speculate beyond that,” he said.
The port has yet to receive a formal application to build a terminal, but Xotta said things are heating up.
“Some of these discussions are in a fairly advanced stage,” he said.
“I would expect that before 2015 is completed there will be some more public information about the status of these developments. What I mean by that is announcements by proponents.”
It would be the first new terminal on the West Coast since Prince Rupert Grain opened in 1985.
Xotta expects it would take three to five years from the announcement date before a new terminal would be operational.
“Permitting is often more time consuming than the actual construction,” he said.
Xotta couldn’t divulge what companies have been sniffing around the port looking for sites to develop a terminal.
“You can imagine who some of those may be,” he said.
“Most of them are those companies that are active in the Canadian marketplace but historically have not had terminal assets here in Vancouver.”
One of the firms that recently acquired the CWB said it will be announcing a new investment in the Canadian grain logistics sector in short order.
A report published May 5 by online magazine Gulf Business says the Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company (SALIC) will soon make a new investment in Canada’s logistics sector.
SALIC Canada and Bunge are partners in a joint venture known as G3 Global Grain Group, which acquired 50.1 percent of CWB earlier this spring with a $250 million investment.
Xotta said companies wanting to develop a grain terminal at the port have a couple of options.
One is to convert an existing terminal that handles a commodity that doesn’t have the same bright outlook as grain. The other is to build from scratch at one or two vacant sites at the port.
“In total, there are four or five locations that could potentially be developed to handle incremental volumes of grain,” he said. “We certainly don’t see all of those being developed.”
However, he did not rule out the possibility of more than one new grain terminal at the port because there is substantial interest in the sector.
“Agriculture is very active right now, and that is manifesting itself in interest in and around our gateway to serve that,” said Xotta.
As well, plenty of investment is happening at the port’s existing five grain terminals.
Cargill is seeking a permit to reconfigure the rail track system in its rail yard to increase capacity and efficiencies.
Richardson International is in the midst of a $120 million expansion that will add 80,000 tonnes of concrete grain storage at its terminal.
Viterra is seeking a permit for dredging and upgrading the ship loading system at its Pacific Terminal. Viterra also operates Cascadia terminal, but no projects are planned for that facility.
Alliance Grain Terminal, which is operated by a consortium of grain companies led by Parrish and Heimbecker and Paterson GlobalFoods, has received a permit to replace the existing conveyor gallery that loads ships.
Xotta said the port is also spending hundreds of millions of dollars on infrastructure projects, such as the Low Level Road Project, which was recently completed in North Vancouver, where the Cargill and Richardson terminals are located.
“This Low Level Road Project moved the road behind the terminals away from terminals inland,” he said.
It created room for two additional rail tracks behind the terminals, which helped increase capacity at the Cargill and Richardson facilities.
The improvements are paying off, with a 22 percent increase in agri-product shipments through the port in 2014 compared to 2013, although it should be noted that 2013 was the winter where grain transportation went off the rails.
Xotta said the trend points toward increased grain traffic through the port, which is why there is such keen interest in adding new grain handling capacity.
“Stay tuned because it’s exciting,” he said. “There is much more dynamism around (agriculture) than I’ve seen in some time.”