Vancouver City Councillor

Is Port Metro making best use of existing land before it aims at farm land reserve?

Warnings from Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie that his city will fight attempts by Port Metro Vancouver to use agricultural land for port purposes raise an important question.

Is Port Metro Vancouver making best use of the space it has? There is no evidence that it is and some reason to believe it is not.

One aspect of this problem was illuminated at Vancouver city council last month when PMV chief executive Robin Silvester provided his annual update on port affairs.

By requiring GPS units on trucks serving the port, he told council, PMV was able to track the movements of this large fleet and ensure that wayward truckers do not wander off arterials and into neighbourhoods. Loading and unloading is easier to manage and bottlenecks can be averted.

Remember that just a few years ago, PMV refused to take any responsibility for the fleet that serves it, triggering a strike over fuel costs and wait times that paralyzed the port and led to unionization of the truckers.

That was then, this is now and now the port is heavily engaged in managing its fleet. Thanks to that long-ago struggle, new technology is improving port efficiency.

But the port still lies largely silent at night. An officer of the longshoremen’s superviors union told me last week that port hours are limited by the ability of truckers to pick up and drop off their loads at regional businesses, many of which operate only during daylight hours.

Breaking even part of this bottleneck could dramatically expand port capacity by reducing daytime bottlenecks — or so this port veteran believes.

Before the port aims its guns at agricultural lands, it needs to demonstrate it’s really doing everything possible with what its got.