Port Metro Vancouver raising curtain on huge Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project, Massey Bridge dredging plans

Port Metro Vancouver CEO Robin Silvester used his annual presentation at the Vancouver Board of Trade today to connect the dots between the Massey Bridge project and the port’s future plans for the Fraser River, while unveiling the first photo I had seen of the huge Terminal 2 project at Roberts Bank.

Silvester set the Twittersphere humming with his reminder that BC’s Gateway investments, including Port Mann Bridge, total $9 billion, putting the massive $6 billion Panama Canal upgrade completely in the shade.

But he made it clear the work is far from done. Soon to come: Port Metro Vancouver’s $2 billion Terminal 2 project, which is already two years into the consultation phase, according to Silvester. (Jobs to be created: 18,000.)

The artists’ rendering he showed was new to me, but clearly based on this version released in September. It shows Roberts Bank nearly doubling, capable of berthing three very large vessels at once in deeper water northwest of the existing terminal.

And thanks to the Massey Bridge, the ability to “dredge slightly deeper” will allow PMV to improve “the flow of goods on the Fraser River.” This will not mean larger vessels going upstream, a PMV executive told me later, but allow the 70,000-ton vessels now using Fraser Port to come in fully loaded and deeper in the water. (Longer and larger vessels would have problems maneuvring upstream.)

These changes, in turn, will make better use of industrial land on both sides of the river, which Silvester would like see included in an Industrial Land Reserve established by provincial legislation.

How this aligns with Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy remains unclear, but the port’s quiet acquisition of agricultural land has raised fears among some Metro directors of new withdrawals from the ALR to support the port’s plans.

As for expanded coal exports, the port CEO briskly reminded listeners that is “not a decision the port makes.” Customers make that call, he said, adding that the shift from fossil fuels “will not happen overnight.” So far, 2012 is shaping up as another record year for the fourth-largest port in North America.