Economic Development Synergies in Port Alberni

This was a letter I sent to the Economic Development Manager of Port Alberni a while back. I thought I’d post it here as well.

Two of the most valuable economic resources in our City are the deep water Port and the (formerly) heavy grade rail line.

Combined with the rail barge at Nanaimo Harbour, we could be considered the closest point (in terms of combined sea/rail miles) of entry for goods from the Far East to enter the Canadian and US Markets, and the 3rd closest overall after Rupert and Kitimat… We are 6-12 hours closer than the Fraser/Vancouver Port, not including the significant backlog at there.

As energy consumption concerns continue to grow, and energy prices continue to rise, only the most cost effective modes of transport will survive. And despite the incredibly large distances, shipping goods from China or Japan by container is orders of magnitude more efficient, produces less CO2, and less costly than trucking in North America, so no doubt these modes will continue to be used and likely expanded.

There is also a new initiative (2003) between the US and Canada to encourage “Short Sea Shipping” to alleviate congestion at the border. This would make our Port a candidate to ship goods to US Pacific ports.

Shipping containers have many of the same benefits of other large businesses without the environmental impact of mills and large industry. There would be many hurdles to overcome, including increasing capacity on the Nanaimo/Welcox side, adding Strait crossings… upgrading the Alberni Railway, finding space for Container storage (the Plywood site would be an excellent candidate) and other concerns. But with the help of all levels of government, the ICF, SRY rail, and other stakeholders I think Port Alberni could take a lot of the current traffic waiting at anchor in the harbour at Vancouver.

Given the obvious political issues around this, I have CC’ed this to our MLA and MP as well since it would directly affect all areas of this electoral district.

Yes, this is a dream, and a big one.. but all the pieces are here. We just need to put them together and make it work.

Thank you again for your time, and hardwork.