Prairie provinces watching Port of Vancouver fees

Prairie provinces watching Port of Vancouver fees
Jan 19, 2023

Fees went up on Jan. 1 on cargo including potash and grain

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Two prairie governments want to participate in a review over a rise in fees at the Port of Vancouver.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan are seeking leave to intervene in a judicial review after fees at the west coast port increased on Jan. 1, 2023.

As of that date, fees on bulk, non-containerized cargo, including potash and grain, are subject to fees ranging from eight to 40 cents per tonne. The fee will depend on which of the 29 terminals process the goods.

Saskatchewan plans to discuss what constitutes fair fees and point to a part of the Canada Marine Act, which states the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority have proper prairie representation.

The federal government appoints board members, and only one represents the prairies.

Viterra, Pacific Coast Terminals and other stakeholders are also concerned about the fee hike.

In 2020, about $8 billion of Saskatchewan agriculture and agri-food products, and $2.9 billion in potash and potassium-based fertilizers, went through the Port of Vancouver.

These increased fees will harm Saskatchewan agriculture, said Jeremy Cockrill, Saskatchewan’s highways minister.

"As a landlocked province, Saskatchewan relies on a fair and competitive transportation network to get our goods across Canada and around the world,” he said in a Jan. 17. statement. “Our producers can compete with any in the world, as long as they are treated equitably.”

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, which operates the Port of Vancouver, will collect the fees for 30 years.

The Port says the fees will help it recover about 90 per cent of the $380 million it’s investing into upgrades.

“We feel the benefit that farmers and exporters are receiving from these projects far outweigh what they would have to pay, Katherine Bamford, director of customer engagement with the port, told the Regina Leader-Post.

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Bronwyn Eyre estimated the increase will cost grain shippers about $11.5 million per year over that time, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported.

“There are certain things that are certainly important when it comes to protecting our economy,” she told the Saskatoon newspaper. “And we think this is one where it’s certainly worth intervening as a province to make sure that our perspective can be heard on this.”

Saskatchewan could hear about its intervention motion by March.

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