Nanaimo could soon benefit from a federal move to streamline inspections of container traffic through Canadian ports.
Federal Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt announced the Beyond the Border Action Plan to reduce security-related trade friction with the U.S., in Nanaimo Monday.
The climate of post-911 America creates hazards that slow cross-border trade.
Raitt offered solutions to keep container cargo moving in her first major announcement since she took over the portfolio.
It was good news to delegates from 18 Canadian ports gathered for the Association of Canadian Port Authorities annual conference, on this week at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
She announced a $30-million "Intelligent Transportation Systems Strategic Plan for Canada," to reduce the number of inspections shipments would require. The plan is at the trial stage now, and the Port of Nanaimo isn't yet handling containers
"We're sort of the infant," said Bernie Dumas, Nanaimo Port Authority president. Nanaimo will soon become an overflow container port for Vancouver.
The Assembly Wharf will undergo a $9.3-million upgrade for the purpose over the next year. Half the funding was announced last month by Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney.
Tendering is expected to go out in September. Construction would tentatively start by November, with the new facility expected to start operation next spring.
Dumas was pleased with Raitt's announcement.
"We knew something was happening in the security aspect, but we were a little surprised. That was the minister's first announcement as minister."
The Fairview container terminal in Prince Rupert, with rail connections to the U.S., now a major North American port, is participating in a pilot project.
If successful, it would improve the efficiency of shipping international goods by rail through Canadian ports to the U.S., by eliminating duplicate screenings of containers as they cross the Canada-U.S. border.
Canada's other three major container ports are Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax.
Nanaimo "will be doing it in a smaller version," Dumas said.
In her speech, Raitt emphasized safety, security and sustainable shipping, which Wendy Zatylny, Association of Canadian Port Authorities president took as possible signals for the industry.
"Speed of cargo transit is a key performance measure," Zatylny said.
"It's one of the factors that shippers use to decide where they're going to ship through, so everything we can do to help speed improvement of cargo gives us that competitive edge in what is a global environment."
Raitt also announced $2 million for port and harbour security research.
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