Prince Rupert Port Authority sees competitive advantage with sustainability initiatives

Posted on Nov 12, 2014
Prince Rupert Port Authority sustainability initiatives help make vessel and rail operations more competitive.

The Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) is serious about environmental stewardship. In fact, all of the Port Authority’s activities are guided by fundamental principles of environmental sustainability, including pollution prevention, preservation of environmental integrity, efficient use of resources, and continuous improvement. The sustainability initiatives also help make the vessel and rail operations more competitive. Ken Veldman, Director of Public Affairs took time to explain to PR Associates how the Port’s sustainability program works. First initiated in 2010, the program is now an essential component in achieving the Port Authority’s growth plan.

PRPA focuses on building long-term, sustainable connections

We are building a culture for collaboration that seeks a higher standard,” explains Veldman. “Our sustainability plan includes initiatives such as membership in Green Marine, ongoing measurement of environmental conditions and providing shore power to container vessels, which together realize port efficiencies and represent best practices in environmental stewardship.

Green Marine Program examines impacts of port’s sustainability initiatives

Prince Rupert Port Authority is a member of the Green Marine Environmental Program, an independent environmental certification program that promotes sustainable marine practices. The program audits reported air emissions such as sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide and greenhouse gases (GHGs) as well as invasive marine species, cargo residues, oil leaks, noise, dust, odors, and luminous pollution. Both the Port Authority and most of its terminal operators are members of the Green Marine program. As a result, “There is a high level of engagement and collaboration in sustainable operations across the marine community in Prince Rupert,” according to Veldman. Veldman adds, “Green Marine provides industry-standard benchmarks against which we can measure progress. We have a sustainability plan in place that allows us to plan for the long-term. This plan—combined with our analysis of baseline environmental conditionswill guide our environmental initiatives through expected growth in the next ten years and beyond.”

The growth Veldman speaks of is already underway. The Prince Rupert Port Authority oversees five terminals that handle bulk cargo, containers and passenger traffic. Over the past ten years, the port has grown considerably to accommodate the increased trade and connectivity with major ports in China, Japan, Korea, and other burgeoning Asian markets. Over 23 million tonnes of cargo passed through the port in 2013, a substantial increase over five million tonnes in 2005. The growth rate is expected to continue. According to a recent report in The Northern View, Prince Rupert’s Fairview container terminal increased its volume in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) from 51,651 in August 2013 to 64,257 TEUs in August of 2014, an increase of 24 per cent. Veldman attributes the increase in port traffic to the unique advantages that Prince Rupert offers shippers. “We save our customers up to 3 days in sailing time because we offer the shortest distance from Asian ports to North America. We also have a deep, ice-free harbor that allows safe and direct navigation for the largest vessels.”

Prince Rupert’s Strategic Advantage – Reduced Carbon Footprint

Prince Rupert builds on its strategic advantage through its fast and efficient loading and unloading facilities. For example, Fairview Container Terminal recently added a fourth gantry crane that allows for more capacity while accelerating loading and unloading operations. CN’s continental rail network provides the Port with its connection to North America’s most populated markets and its richest resource areas.  CN’s northern mainline tends to avoid the urban congestion that can result in delays and impact reliability.

In addition, CN’s pass through the northern Rockies is significantly lower in elevation than other corridors through the Rocky Mountains, meaning CN can run longer, faster, more efficient unit trains.  More efficient transportation means less fuel, and coupled with the shorter sailing distances to Asia, makes the Chicago to Prince Rupert to China route one of the lowest carbon footprints available to shippers. As Veldman spoke about the future, he noted, “Our growth strategy is on pace to increase from the current 500 annual deep-sea vessels to an estimated 1,500 by 2024. We’re undertaking substantial preparation to ready the Port of Prince Rupert for dramatic increases in marine traffic, and ensuring we understanding our existing environmental footprint is a big part of that.” 

Shore-Power Plan in need of a Boost

Prince Rupert Port Authority’s shore power service is beginning to catch on. Ships that use shore-supplied electricity while in berth can manage all cargo handling while also providing power for onboard ventilation, refrigeration, lighting and other operations. Known in the industry as “cold ironing,” the practice saves on fuel costs while also cutting carbon dioxide and air pollution emissions. Prince Rupert offers the first shore power service for container ships in Canada.  Vessels are beginning to take advantage of this service as they obtain the necessary electrical hook-up equipment onboard. Veldman explains, “We are starting to see more vessels capable of using this important service, and we are confident that the use of shore-power will soon become the norm.” The Port Authority also introduced its Green Wave environmental incentive program to encourage vessels and shipping lines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The program uses the Environmental Ship Index Scale, among other criteria, to assess emissions from visiting ships. Reduced harbour dues are offered to vessels that reduce emissions by burning cleaner fuels, for example. The program is a success with 111 ships qualifying for a total of $99,548 in reduced fees so far in 2014, representing 166 port calls.

New Wood Pellet Terminal Exports Sustainable Fuel


The Pinnacle Renewable Energy wood pellet shipping facility is one of the Prince Rupert Port Authority’s newer terminals. Pinnacle is a supplier of softwood pellets, a sustainable fuel source. The terminal was constructed to accommodate larger Panamax vessels that can load at a rate of 2,000 tonnes per hour. As Veldman says, “Because this new terminal is capable of handling large Panamax vessels, the port has further diversified by shipping clean-burning biofuel to European and Asian markets.” As the Prince Rupert Port Authority continues to expand its operations, the sustainability plan is paying dividends with greater efficiency and a cleaner environment, both on the water and land. The Port Authority’s growth program is tightly integrated with sustainability practices that produce confidence about the possibilities to continue serving its customers and the community.

Edward Munro is a Communications & Sustainability Consultant with PR Associates, a Vancouver-based public relations and communication firm.

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