BC Shipping News - November 2016

Page 42


Inland Ports Conference sparks dialogue By Colin Laughlan President, Laughlan Consulting International Inc. Member, Experts’ Forum – UN/CEFACT

“Inland ports are extremely important elements in ensuring that the sea ports are as strong, viable, efficient and effective as they can be...”


estern Canada’s first Inland Ports Conference was: (i) crucial to Western Canada’s trade-related transportation and logistics; (ii) vital to understanding the relationship between inland ports and seaports; (iii) valuable to regional and provincial economic development; (iv) full of unexpected comments. The only correct answer has to be (v) all of the preceding, but participants could be forgiven for additional commentary such as (vi) a long overdue and much-needed discussion; (vii) critical to Canada’s international trade performance; and even (viii) a nation-building event. Almost to the day, the conference marked the 10th anniversary of the formalization of the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative (APGCI) in 2006. Over the past decade, much of the national focus has been on the “Gateway” as opposed to the “Corridor” dimension of APGCI, so the dialogue sparked by the conference was most timely as the federal government contemplates the next wave of its $60-billion infrastructure investment commitment. “We know about the economic impact of the sea ports,” Peter Wallis, President and CEO of the Calgary-based Van Horne Institute, the conference organizers, told BC Shipping News. “Canada does have a port and corridor strategy as part of its national transportation policy. Along

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the corridors, there are some extremely important points — call them inland ports because that’s what they are,” Wallis said.

The corridor

The centres Wallis references have developed in the shadow of a spotlight on Canada’s two West Coast Gateway ports — the Port of Vancouver and the Port of Prince Rupert. The Conference has now shifted the focus to the nodes along the rail and truck routes connecting the inlands to the seaports. These corridor ports compose a network of logistics hubs located at Ashcroft, British Columbia; Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta; Regina, Saskatchewan; and Winnipeg, Manitoba. How the current roles of the inland ports — and more importantly, their potential — can relieve stress and contribute other benefits to the seaports and their adjacent regions was insightfully elaborated through the multiple perspectives of comparable port regions in Europe and North America. The inaugural conference did not disappoint the 150 attendees mainly representing academe, business and government across Canada’s four western provinces, although the absence of representation from the Government of British Columbia was noticed. Even if inadvertent, the negative symbolism reflects poorly on the idea of distributing the economic benefits of Canada’s seaports to other regions.

“Inland ports themselves are interesting economic generators ... there is a list of ancillary business that results from the activities of the various distribution centres,” said Wallis. “Inland ports are extremely important elements in ensuring that the sea ports are as strong, viable, efficient and effective as they can be. A seaport that doesn’t have a direct connection to the major distribution centres that have been set up across western Canada to facilitate the trade flows is not going to be as robust as it can be.” Kleo Landucci, Vice President of Ashcroft Terminal, Platinum Sponsor of the Conference, told BCSN there was an “infrastructure deficit” for supply chain solutions. These solutions “are not just at the marine ports, and they’re not just at the source where the producer affects the product, or prepares the product for market, but it’s throughout the whole supply chain, and every region is a little bit different,” Landucci said. “So, given the geographic expanse and challenges in Canada, what should we be doing to catch up?” The answer to that question may have been most succinctly expressed by panelist Mark Szakonyi, Executive Editor of JOC.com, who framed the central issues as: “What’s moving through the supply chains, and what makes sense for the shipper?” William McKinnon, General Manager for D.B Schenker’s Western Canada region, offered a freight forwarder’s perspective with a list of solutions beneficial to shippers: design a scalable solution to meet the expanding needs of producers and customers; integrate advanced technology; manage speed to market variables; minimize freight touch points;

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