Port of Vancouver: sustainably addressing the challenges of growth

Published by  8 February, 2017 12:32 pm Leave your thoughts

itw_vancouver01_duncan-wilson_110Interview : Duncan Wilson, Vice Président, Corporate Social Responsibility, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Canada.

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is member of AIVP since 2015.

More than 50 per cent of British Columbia’s population lives in Metro Vancouver, a region where available land supply is geographically restricted. According to current forecasts, Metro Vancouver’s population is set to grow by 1 million people by 2041. At the same time, trade with Canada is also growing, particularly with Asia and through the Port of Vancouver. The Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest port, enabling the trade of approximately 20 per cent of Canada’s entire trade in goods (by value). Most of the 1450 hectares of land under the stewardship of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (the federal body that manages port land) is in use. As a region, only about a 10-year supply of trade-enabling land remains, making the port authority’s job to prepare for growing trade very challenging.

AIVP – According to current forecasts, the pressure on available industrial land and, more specifically, the potential for conflict at the interface between the working waterfront and adjacent uses will increase. Your strategic vision “Port 2050” and your Land Use Plan (October 2014) identify these challenges, and your Low Level Road Project seems a good example to illustrate these potential conflicts and better understand your strategies and solutions to address them. Could you explain what the problems were and your approach to this project?<

Duncan Wilson – In 2008, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and our partners identified 17 infrastructure projects in the Vancouver area needed to facilitate the growth of trade while at the same time minimize impacts of port growth on local communities.

The Low Level Road Project was one of those 17 projects and involved the realignment and elevation of approximately 2.6 kilometres of a high-use public road that runs parallel to, and also provides access to, several Port of Vancouver terminals. This realignment provided space for two new rail tracks to improve rail switching efficiency and capacity. It addressed safety, recreation and noise challenges associated with port operations along the road, and included the reconfiguration of three intersections and improved lanes for cyclists.


Low level road construction – 2014 © Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

The Low Level Road Project design included a new pedestrian overpass, and improvements to existing trails, enhancing safety and the aesthetic experience for pedestrians and cyclists. The project also provided for continuation of a community trail, which, when complete, will be fully accessible and 35-kilometres long.

Environmental compensation for the project included removal of invasive species, installation of two artificial nest sites for eagles and landscaping incorporating indigenous species. Additionally, public art within the concrete retaining walls reflects the area’s rich indigenous and logging/milling

From the outset, stakeholder and community engagement was a fundamental component of the Low Level Road Project’s development. The design plan was refined through a public consultation process involving residents, First Nations, business owners, and city staff. Ultimately, the design was substantially changed based on community input. For example, the height of the road was lowered, and plans for view impacts, noise walls, aesthetics, landscaping, and integration with community development were improved.

The total cost of the project was CAN$101.6 million. Construction began in March 2013, and Low Level Road opened to two-way traffic in October 2014. The project was officially completed in March 2015, on time and on budget. It was also the first transportation project, and only the second project in Canada, toreceive the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Envision Platinum Award.

Our approach to the Low Level Road Project has set a new standard for the delivery of infrastructure projects by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. Trade through the Port of Vancouver continues to grow. Given the port’s close proximity to residential communities, future expansion projects will require full and meaningful consultation and an approach that addresses not only the practical needs of the port, but also any impacts on the environment and local populations. A long-term vision that incorporate all aspects of sustainability will be needed, as exemplified by the Low Level Road Project.


AIVP – On the environmental front, the Port of Vancouver is renowned for its broad and quite pro-active sustainability strategy. Could you explain some of your air, energy and climate action programs?

Duncan Wilson – Our mandate, as outlined in the Canada Marine Act, is to facilitate Canada’s trade while providing a high level of safety, protecting the environment and considering local communities. We protect the environment in two key ways: first, through a very robust environmental and project review permitting process, and second, through our many environmental programs.

e have programs that address air and water quality, marine mammal protection, and much more. For example, our action programs promote air emissions reductions in key sectors of the port supply chain such as ships, trucks, terminals and rail locomotives. We have been partners with the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, along with government since 2007 to develop and implement a strategy called the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy. Its goal was a 75 per cent reduction of diesel particulate matter emissions per tonne of cargo by 2015 and 80 per cent by 2020.


Shore Power, @ Cochran Marine

Another example is our Canada Place cruise ship terminal, which became the first in Canada and third in the world to offer shore power for cruise ships in 2009. Cruise ship shore power connections have increased by 58 per cent since 2010, reducing more than 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e). We also hope to add shore power to two container terminals very soon.


Canada Place Cruise Terminal

AIVP – Regarding water, land and wildlife, could you comment on what seems a very innovative program: your ECHO Program, aimed at understanding and managing the impact of shipping activities on at-risk whales?

Duncan Wilson – The Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program was launched in 2014. Its long-term goal is to develop mitigation measures that will lead to a quantifiable reduction in potential threats to whales as a result of shipping activities. Led by the port authority, this is a collaborative research initiative involving marine transportation industries, conservation and environmental groups, First Nations individuals, government and scientists.

On January 1, 2017, we added underwater noise reduction criteria to our existing EcoAction program to include harbour due rate discounts for quieter ships. To create this new criteria, a study team composed of naval architects, acoustic specialists and marine mammal researchers identified and evaluated various vessel-quieting designs, technology and maintenance options. Several factors were considered in the criteria identification and evaluation process including noise reduction effectiveness and ability to verify technologies and classifications.

This makes Canada the first country in the world with a marine noise reduction incentive.



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