Building blocks for a capacity boom



Jim Cox, Vice President, Infrastructure Development, Vancouver Port Authority, Vancouver, Canada P O RT T E C H N O L O G Y I N T E R N AT I O N A L 13 Inner harbour


The Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest and most diversified port, trading more than $43 billion in goods with more than 90 trading economies. Located on the west coast of North America, the Port of Vancouver is experiencing significant growth in overall trade volumes, particularly in its container sector.

Increased container volumes on the west coast of North America are attributed to a significant demand for consumer goods and increased trade with Asia-Pacific. Market studies indicate that container traffic on the west coast of North America will double in the next ten years and triple in the next 20 years. At the Port of Vancouver, container throughput rose from 495,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in 1995 to 1.7 million TEUs in 2004, representing an average annual growth rate of 14 per cent.

Together with its terminal partners, the Vancouver Port Authority (VPA) has already made substantial investments in the container sector to increase capacities at existing terminals. These investments have enabled the port to keep pace with th double-digit-growth rates in container traffic over the past ten years, however, these improvements alone will not be sufficient to meet the Port of Vancouver’s capacity requirements of five million TEUs by 2020. Driven by dramatic annual increases in container traffic and substantial growth forecasts, the VPA developed a strategic container development programme in 2002 to address future capacity concerns.

Strategic container development

Port of Vancouver’s container development programme is a three-pronged approach to container expansion, focusing on increasing the efficiency and productivity of current facilities, expansion of current facilities and the development of a new container facility. A total of five projects, costing $1.5 billion (CDN), will be completed by 2020 to ensure that the Port of Vancouver has the opportunity to capture a significant share of the 42 million TEUs that are forecast to hit west coast ports in the next twenty years. Projects are being implemented in incremental stages to meet capacity needs based on market projections and will increase container capacity at the port by 3.6 million TEUs from 1.7 million TEUs to 5.3 million TEUs by 2020.

Increasing the efficiency of current facilities

Within the port’s inner harbour, work is already underway to increase the efficiency of two existing container-handling facilities. Substantial investments have been made by the VPA and the terminal operators to upgrade facilities and equipment at both Vanterm and Centerm container terminals.


Vanterm container terminal has virtually completed a terminal and equipment upgrade project. Vanterm is located on a 76-acre site and upgrades were effective in increasing container capacity by 165,000 TEUs from 435,000 TEUs to 600,000 TEUs.

Vanterm terminal upgrades included the removal of an older crane and the addition of two new Super Post-Panamax cranes, for a total of six dockside gantry cranes. Three additional tracks were added to the intermodal yard to support additional on-dock rail capacity. Many of the buildings on site were relocated and modifications were made to truck exit gates to accommodate more efficient operations and to maximise space. Finally, general yard support equipment was upgraded including rubber-tire gantry cranes (RTG), tractor-trailer units and the installation of additional refrigerated container power supply outlets.


Centerm container terminal is currently undergoing extensive terminal and equipment upgrades. Led by terminal operator P&O Ports Canada, Centerm expansion plans will more than double the terminal’s container handling capacity from 360,000 TEUs to approximately 780,000 TEUs by the first quarter of 2006.

Centerm terminal upgrades include the conversion of present “top-pick” operation (using mobile equipment) to an RTG operation. Upgrades are being made to the existing berths and two new Super Post-Panamax container cranes have been delivered, replacing one existing obsolete crane. A new transformer building, substation and radio frequency antenna (RF) system is being installed to service the upgraded terminal. The track in the intermodal yard is being modified and extended to increase on-dock rail capacity. The terminal will also replace the existing maintenance building with a new site services facility to perform existing maintenance functions and handle the maintenance of the new RTGs.

Other plans for the Vancouver’s inner harbour include the possible conversion of a break-bulk terminal to include container handling facilities, however, this project has not yet been fully defined.

Expansion of facilities at Roberts Bank

Located 40 kilometres south of Vancouver’s inner harbour in Delta, BC, is Roberts Bank. Roberts Bank is the home of Deltaport, the port’s largest container-handling facility and Westshore Terminals, a coal-handling facility.

Expansion plans at Deltaport will increase container terminal capacity from 900,000 TEUs to 1.3 million TEUs by 2008. The Deltaport Third Berth Project will include the construction of a new wharf to accommodate a third berth and the construction of approximately 20 hectares (50 acres) of fill to create an expanded container storage area. Approximately 7,000 metres of additional support track will be required to support Deltaport’s intermodal yard. Deltaport’s intermodal yard currently has seven rail-mounted gantry cranes that service its eight track intermodal yard. With the third-berth expansion, three additional gantry cranes will be purchased for a total of nine. Off-site improvements will also include traffic management improvements to the regional highway corridor that service the terminal.

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