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Proposed Vancouver grain terminal has great rail connections

The Fraser River Terminal will be served by four railways and there are no bottlenecks, a company official says

Railway tracks

A spokesman for one of the companies behind the proposed Fraser Grain Terminal says the facility will be efficient and state of the art.

Casey McCawley, Parrish & Heimbecker’s (P&H) director of West Coast operations and a director of the terminal to be co-owned by P&H and Paterson GlobalFoods (PGF), says that’s good news for farmers looking for efficient grain transportation.

“The average car turnaround time to the West Coast is about 13 days,” McCawley said in an interview Dec. 5. “If we are measuring against this benchmark, I can tell you that we will be extremely efficient. The rail connectivity at this terminal is good. It connects directly with CN, CP, BN (railways) and the SRY (Southern Railway of British Columbia).

“We look at rail connectivity as one of the drivers. Rail capacity into the (Vancouver) gateway is at a premium. It is essential to grow, not only in our industry, but other bulk commodities as well, such as containers. We are very encouraged by the rail metrics that we have in terms of car turnaround times at that facility. The location is not encumbered by rail bottlenecks, like bridges, tunnels and congested rail yards.”

If approved by the Port of Vancouver, the new terminal to be built at the Fraser Surrey Docks on the Fraser River and will have a total of 97,000 tonnes of storage capacity, McCawley said. The new facility will add 77,000 tonnes to the existing 20,000-tonne terminal that P&H and PGF already operate on the site.

The current operation uses ‘direct hits’ matching Prairie grain trains with arriving ships. Its success has given the companies the confidence to build a new terminal, McCawley said.

The companies also co-own and operate Alliance Grain Terminal (AGT), a 102,070-tonne storage capacity grain export terminal, on the south shore of Burrard Inlet.

“While we are building terminal capacity we are adding inland capacity by expanding our inland footprint,” McCawley said. “We see both projects being co-ordinated and being built hand in hand. We need to build them both.”

Meanwhile, G3 is proposing a 200,000-tonne storage grain export terminal be built on the north shore of Burrard Inlet.

If both terminals are constructed it will boost Vancouver’s grain storage capacity of almost 978,000 tonnes by 28 per cent to 1.55 million.

Currently Panamax ships can’t fully load in the Fraser River because of the George Massey Tunnel, which goes under the river. However, plans are underway to replace the tunnel with a bridge, which means ships could take on more cargo.

The current draft restriction is 11.5 metres, McCawley said.

“It means we can load — it depends a little bit with the title influence on the river — up to 54,000 to 55,000 tonnes in a Panamax,” he said.

“For larger vessels we top up at our deepwater terminal (AGT) in Burrard Inlet.”

With western Canadian grain production increasing, additional export capacity at Vancouver will help farmers, University of Saskatchewan agricultural economist Richard Gray has said. When capacity is constrained the result is lower elevator prices, he has said.

Public hearings into the proposed Fraser Grain Terminal wrapped up Dec. 1.

“There is a very rigorous approval process in order to get a development permit,” McCawley said. “A lot of consultation goes on with stakeholders, including First Nations, residents around the area, municipalities, you name it.”

About the author


Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.



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