Alberni pitches PATH to Ottawa

Mayor Mike Ruttan and PAPA CEO Zoran Knezevic optimistic about proposed transshipment hub's future.

The Port Alberni Port Authority first proposed the $1.7 billion project in 2013.

The Port Alberni Port Authority first proposed the $1.7 billion project in 2013.

Port Alberni Port Authority officials and Mayor Mike Ruttan were in Ottawa last week to garner support for the Port Alberni Transshipment Hub (PATH).

The port authority first proposed the $1.7 billion project in 2013. Since then, a 420-page pre-feasibility study has been completed by consultants CPCS. According to the study, PATH “has the potential to generate significant economic and other benefits.” However, the report notes, “to be viable, the PATH concept would need to secure long-term traffic and investment commitments from one or more shipping lines”—something that PAPA CEO Zoran Knezevic has been working on.

“We were in Ottawa to meet with a number of different government officials and discuss the benefits of the Port Alberni Transshipment Hub,” said Knezevic.

“We met with policy advisor to [Minister of Transport] Marc Garneau, met with the NDP office of [MP] Gord Johns and with about 14 different bureaucrats to express the benefits of the project and ask for support.”

While the federal government’s formal position won’t be known for a while, Knezevic was hopeful given the delegation’s positive reception.

“Our impression is that people were very impressed, we got a lot of positive feedback plus encouragement to continue moving forward, but it is a very large project and  it may require a larger group of government officials to push this forward,” he said.

Ruttan was surprised that the federal bureaucrats didn’t have much background on the PATH proposal.

“We found that federal bureaucrats—who are not the ones to formally make the decisions but certainly the ones to look at the evidence and make recommendations—weren’t fully aware of the project or implications in terms of how it impacts the entire country with respect to trade and therefore Canada’s standing with our trading partners internationally,” said Ruttan. “Nor were they fully aware of the capacity for this project to positively impact our resiliency in terms of trade.”

Knezevic said that the port authority is focusing both in Canada and abroad.

“We are actively seeking investors,” he said, adding that support from senior government would aid that effort.

Ruttan agreed.

“I think we’re at the stage where if we can convince both senior levels of government that it’s in our national interest to advance this project that we have a much better chance of getting the necessary investment to make it a reality,” he said.

If the transshipment hub does go forward, Ruttan said it will have an immense positive impact on the area. “If it does come about it will be transformation for our region—and when I say our region I mean the entire Island. It’s a different way of looking at how we trade and how we move freight and how efficient we can be in terms of distribution of goods,” said Ruttan.

More efficient trade could help Canada meet its obligations from the Paris climate conference in December, Ruttan added. At the conference, 195 nations pledged to keep global temperature increases to below two degrees Celsius.

Canada’s own current goals are to reduce emission levels to 2005 levels by 2030.

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