National conference highlights Nanaimo’s port

NANAIMO – Conference showcases Nanaimo infrastructure to key people in government and industry.

More than 150 delegates, plus support staff and industry exhibitors from across Canada, gathered in Nanaimo last week for the Association of Canadian Port Authorities’ 55th annual general meeting.

The theme of the conference was “building partnerships” between port authorities, the communities in which they operate, the marine and cruise industries, and government agencies in Canada and the U.S.

The business session of the event – held at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre Aug. 19-21, and included a trade show – opened with a speech by Lisa Raitt, federal transport minister, who outlined planned improvements in port security and surveillance that will be implemented to help create a world-class tanker safety system on the B.C. coast.

Measures mentioned include increased surveillance flights through the National Aerial Suveillance program, establishment of an Incident Command System by the Canadian Coast Guard to deal more efficiently with incidents, and to conduct scientific research on non-conventional petroleum products, such as diluted bitumen, to get a better understanding of how they will behave if spilled in marine environments.

Raitt also announced the government provided a $2-million contribution to AXYS Technologies, through Industry Canada’s Strategic Aerospace Defence Initiative to develop applications that collect, analyze and display sensitive maritime data to enhance port and harbour security.

“Users of the applications will be able to monitor potential criminal threats in real time and benefit from the company’s proven record of successful research and development in marine environment monitoring,” Raitt said.

Most of what was discussed will likely not have much, if any, direct impact on Nanaimo in the near future, but Bernie Dumas, Nanaimo Port Authority president and CEO, said the importance of the conference was that it  showcased Nanaimo and its port to key people in government and private industry from across Canada.

“It gave us an opportunity to show them what we have, as a port facility, the importance of our infrastructure to Vancouver Island. I think the major commercial gateway to Vancouver Island is through Nanaimo,” Dumas said.

Dumas said the most successful cities in Canada are port cities. Ports are vital to the economic health of cities they operate in and the conference also showcased recent and ongoing projects and programs to improve Port of Nanaimo infrastructure, such as the cruise ship terminal and the short sea shipping project announced in July.

“It’s very important to get the confidence of government to spend some more money here,” Dumas said. “That’s goes even beyond the port’s role in the sense that we need infrastructure here. We need new roads and highways and bridges.

“That’s all part  of the port system actually provides reasons to get these upgrades done.”