Vancouver logistics conference looks at Canada's Big Ship readiness


By Colin Laughlan

McKeil Marine's Evans Spirit  won the International Bulk Journal's 2016 Ship of the Year Award during the IBJ's Salute to Excellence in the Maritime Bulk Industry gala awards ceremony in London, UK on November 21.
"It's a fantastic way to closeout our 60th anniversary year: having a vessel named after our founder, Evans McKeil, win this prestigious international award," said Steve Fletcher, President and CEO of McKeil Marine.
Acquired by McKeil in 2015, the Evans Spirit is a cargo ship with the shallow draught characters of a tug and barge; however, compared to a tug-and-barge unit, she can transport approximately 40 per cent more cargo about 50 per cent faster on a very similar amount of fuel.  She is in service throughout the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
Evans Spirit was shortlisted for 2016 Ship of the Year competing with three other vessels: CS Bright, Mitsui OSK Lines, Japan;  Damen Shipyards, Netherlands; and MN Baroque, Swiss Marine, Switzerland. The award is presented to the owner, operator or builder of an outstanding individual bulk ship. Judged on operational efficiency, design innovation, safety and environmental protection, the Evans Spirit was selected as winner. (Photo Paul Beesley).


VANCOUVER -Speaking on what it takes to be big ship ready, a panel of experts representing key links in Canada's cargo transportation chain told an industry conference it was crucial to prepare for the surge in container traffic generated especially by the arrival of ultra-large vessels at the country's sea ports. But different views were expressed on where capacity was the most needed.

The panel discussion was presented by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transportation in North America (CILTNA) at the 6th annual Cargo Logistics Canada Conference (Feb. 7-9), and was moderated by Robert Lewis-Manning, President of the Chamber of Shipping.

"The issue is not really the size of the ship," affirmed Tony Boemi, Vice President, Growth and Development, Port of Montreal. "The issue is do we have the infrastructure to handle all the containers that come off the ship?"

Mr. Boemi noted that the Port of Montreal's 17 per cent growth in containers over the past two years "caught everybody by surprise" and spurred a $50-million investment in rail optimization along with extended terminal hours and a significant increase in waterfront labour since November 2018. He added that the port's biggest area of focus now is on information technology using artificial intelligence to develop data analytics "to predict what will happen in the next day or two days."

Jordan Kajfasz, Assistant Vice President of International Intermodal and Automotive at CP Rail, identified inland terminal capacity as the critical issue. "You need capacity beyond the port," said Mr. Kajfasz. "You can take a 18,000 TEU ship, you can have a super post Panamax crane, a mile-long berth, and build a 12,000-foot train track, but if you don't have the inland capacity to process that much cargo ... the supply chain will start to fail when it's put under pressure."

He added that CP "has 150 acres worth of capacity on terminal now in Toronto," and has land for expansion "across all markets in all its locations in North America. If you don't have room to grow, at some point you're going to be landlocked."  
Mr. Kaifasz said the best way to plan was to "start inland and build your way back (to the ocean port). That's the critical aspect for being big ship ready."


Tabare Dominguez, Commercial Director for DP World's ocean terminals in British Columbia, said his company was preparing for its container volumes in Canada to rise to over 4 million TEU by 2025. He said current extension of the berth at Vancouver's Centerm would allow two ultra-large ships simultaneously into the terminal along with two new neo-panamax cranes for a total of six. The company is also increasing the footprint of the terminal by one third and expanding its intermodal rail capacity by 88 per cent.

Mr. Dominguez said the only terminal in Canada at present where two ultra-large ships can berth simultaneously is at Prince Rupert. "Now we can handle a ship of any size," he said, adding that expansion plans currently underway will increase capacity to 1.6 million TEU by Q1 2021, to 1.8 million TEU by 2022, and to 2.7 million TEU by 2025."

Jude Correa, Vice President, Risk and Insurance, Seaspan Ship Management Ltd., provided the audience with a detailed examination of the engineering and design changes that have taken place in recent years to develop the new Ultra Large Container Ships, some of which can carry more than 22,000 twenty foot equivalent units (TEU).