Investor interest is coming from abroad for the Port Alberni Trans-shipment Hub.
Port authority CEO Zoran Knezevic is off on a provincial trade mission to India meant to promote Asian Pacific trade.
The trade mission leaves for India on Friday, Oct. 10, but Knezevic set off three days earlier in order to speak with interested trans-shipment hub investors in China.
“The purpose of the trip is to promote the port authority and its projects and also potentially secure some investors for our porposed container trans-shipment hub,” he said.
The prospective investors are predominantly from China, though Knezevic is hoping to garner more interest from India as well in order to garner the more than $1 billion dollars needed to bring the trans-shipment hub to Sarita Bay.
According to Knezevic, there is a chance for some of that funding to come from either the provincial or federal government but the port authority does not currently have a commitment from either one.
While located some ways down the inlet from Port Alberni, the city still stands to gain from the trans-shipment hub, which could see at least one container ship dock there every week, he said.
“There are a number of spin-off benefits for a project like this,” said Knezevic, including “increased labour and increased employment, thus increasing the population.”
The hub could also bring more industry interest to the region, including ship building and repairs, marine equipment and surveying businesses.
The benefits could also trickle down to the retail and service sectors as well, said Dave McCormick, PAPA Director of Public Relations and Business Development. “Increased employment, increased wages, increased demands for housing… all of these spin-offs have tremondous economic impacts. For every direct job created the spin-offs would be another three to four jobs.”
The port authority is working to ensure that those jobs remain local or even bring back Port Alberni residents who’ve left to find jobs elsewhere.
“One of the major benefits we have been communicating and that which is being clearly recognized by potential investors in support of [the hub’s] development is that Port Alberni has a long history of skilled trades workers which can be employed to work on this project; including “re-patriating” many —hopefully—back to the Alberni Valley who are currently working in other industrial regions such as northeastern BC or Alberta. Knezevic said that if the hub operates at even 30-40 per cent of its capacity it would employ at least a couple hundred staff. That number would go up by aboout 150 people per container ship docked at the hub. A trans-shipment hub at Sarita Bay could also be good news for proponents of the proposed Steelhead LNG facility.
“Both of these projects would complement each other,” said Knezevic. “They will be able to share some of the service they require, like tugboats and labour.”
Having either one of the proposed facilities there could also facilitate the construction of another way in and out of the Alberni Valley.
“If we get a trans-shipment hub the province will build a road.”