Fraser River estuary ecosystem at risk from unnecessary Roberts Bank Container Terminal 2: Letter to PM Justin Trudeau

This is a copy of a letter from Delta resident Susan Jones to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.


March 2023

Attention: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and Cabinet

Unnecessary, Expensive, Roberts Bank Container Terminal 2 ($3.5 billion +)

After 9 years of environmental assessment, the Roberts Bank Container Terminal 2 (RBT2) is before the federal Cabinet.

The Port of Vancouver proposes to build a man-made island and expanded causeway for 3- berth Container Terminal 2 at Roberts Bank, Delta, British Columbia. The project requires dredging and filling in 460 acres1 of the ecologically- important Fraser River estuary.

Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales     Endangered Salmon      Pacific Flyway Major stopover for Western sandpipers, a shorebird species of concern

No assessment of impact on all 50 species of shorebirds

Canada’s number one Important Bird Area          Lack of peer-reviewed credible scientific studies

Transportation experts, commissioned by the Canadian Government, advised building at Prince Rupert before expanding in Vancouver.2

The Port of Vancouver wants more container real estate as the container business provides 47% of the port’s operating income.3

A TEU is a twenty-foot container equivalent unit.

Vancouver current container business is utilizing 58% of capacity. (around 3.7 million TEUs annually with a capacity of 6.4 million TEUs.)

The Port of Vancouver’s lowest container business forecasts are not being realized.

TEU is a twenty-foot container equivalent unit.

Even the lowest container business forecasts by the Port of Vancouver are not being realized. Over the past 9 years of environmental assessment the Port of Vancouver has consistently lowered the forecasts, and still the lowest forecasts have not been met.

The 2006 lowest forecast of 4.7 million TEUs by 2020 was out by 1.2 million TEUs. That is half of the 2.4 million TEUs the Port claims it needs with RBT2.

The 2016 low forecast of 4.1 million TEUs5 for 2022 has not been met and was out by .6 million TEUs.

The 2020 forecasts6 by the Port of Vancouver show a solid growth line which already is not happening as the TEU total for 2022 was down 3.3%. It has seen slow growth since 2018 (1.2% CAGR since 2018) due to a longer-term trend of container traffic migrating to the Gulf and East Coast ports.7

The graph above shows the faster growth rate at the Port of Prince Rupert. Statistics from graphs are from the ports’ websites.

Slow growth in imports and declining exports

Imported laden containers declined in 2022 by 3.9%. The Compound Annual Growth Rate

(CAGR) of imported laden containers over the past 5 years is 1.8%.

Exported laden containers have been declining since 2014; down 20% in 2022 and down 4.8% (CAGR) since 2014.

The big increase in the Vancouver container business is the export of empty containers, a CAGR increase of 8.2% over 5 years (2017-2022).

In 2022, the export of empty containers was 28% of the Vancouver container business (1,009,647 million TEUs out of 3,557,294). The large increase in empty containers means wasting tight rail capacity to transport empty containers across Canada from the eastern U.S.A. In addition, an increase in trucks carrying empty containers causes serious traffic congestion and slowdown in the Greater Vancouver region. Only 10% of the imports are for the Vancouver region.8

Do we seriously want to trash the Fraser River Estuary to import USA-bound full containers and export empty USA containers?


1 RBT2 EIS, Table 4-1, Volume 1, Section 1, Document # 181, Scrolled page 54/206

2 Strategic Advisors’ Report and Recommendations, Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative,

“1.7 We recommend that policy makers develop container capacity in Prince Rupert before making investments in Vancouver, beyond what have been announced to date. We believe that capacity can be expanded in Prince Rupert relatively quickly and such a strategy will allow time for Vancouver to develop solutions to its congestion.”

3 Reporting, statistics and resources – The Port of Vancouver, 2018 Financial Report, Page 21/58

2018_FinancialReport.pdf (

4 Prince Rupert:Fairview Terminal1.8 million TEUs
 Announced new Terminal2.5 million TEUs
Vancouver:Deltaport3 million TEUs
 Vanterm1.0 million TEUs
 Centerm1.5 million TEUs
 Fraser Surrey Docks0.6 million TEUs
 Total:10.4 million TEUs

Fairview Terminal; Terminal Expansion to 1.8 million TEU Capacity, Prince Rupert Port Authority,

Prince Rupert Port Authority Container Terminal Master Planning Confirms Potential to Develop in Excess of 6 million TEUs of Capacity, May 13, 2019 confirms-potential-to-develop-in-excess-of-6-million-teus-of-capacity-882712274.html

Deltaport: Projections of Vessel Calls and Movements at Deltaport and Westshore Terminals, Deltaport Terminal Road and Rail Improvement Project (DTRRIP), November 28, 2011, pages 21&22 Link – Deltaport-andWestshore-Terminals.pdf

It appears further efficiencies could raise the capacity to 3.2 million TEUs.

Vanterm: “GCT is spending $160 million to densify and modernize GCT Vanterm, which will increase the terminal’s capacity by about 25% — from 835,000 TEUs to over one million TEUs annually.” Link –

Centerm: 1

Fraser Surrey Docks: FSD has capacity for 600,000 TEUs. Container docks in Surrey idle after $190m expansion, Vancouver Sun, June 21, 2006 Link –

5 Forecast Potential Total Port of Vancouver, Ocean Shipping Consultants Report, 2016. Page 119

6 VFPA Volume Forecast, VFPA Long Term Container Forecast: 2020-2060, Drewry, October, 2020, Scrolled pages 115 and 117/122

7 DP World, Port of Vancouver complete $350 M cargo expansion project, Business in Vancouver, Feb. 21, 2023, cargo-expansion-project-6586177

8 Port of Vancouver Public Consultation, Deltaport Terminal Road and Rail Project, (DTRRIP), Dec.10, 2011, Page 6 “The nature of the business is that it is about 10% stays local and 90% goes elsewhere.”

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1 Response to Fraser River estuary ecosystem at risk from unnecessary Roberts Bank Container Terminal 2: Letter to PM Justin Trudeau


    Dear MetroVanWatch,

    I am writing to thank you for your continuing diligent efforts in providing focussed coverage on important environmental issues that are of concern across the region.

    Further to this focus, I am hoping that you might be interested in writing an article further to the proposed conversion/development of golf course lands in the Township of Langley’s Gloucester Industrial Estates.

    This proposed industrialization would negatively affect Metro-identified “sensitive ecosystem lands” that exist within the headwaters of West Creek, which is one of 14 provincially designated sensitive streams.

    West Creek discharges into the Fraser River just east of Fort langley, and provides critical habitat for populations of chum, chinook, and coho salmon.

    The surrounding forests and wetlands in around the West Creek headwaters are also home to forested lands, wildlife, birds, and amphians that form a rich, interconnected, and symbiotic web that helps to ensure the continued ability of the area to support otherwise dwindling fish stocks.

    As you are aware, there are region-wide issues with respect to the shortage of industrial lands which has caused proponents and local governments alike to pursue land inventories in more marginal and ecologically sensitive areas which have remained largely untouched by development over the last number of decades.

    These controversial decisions have recently taken place in the City of Surrey (South Campbell Heights), the City of Burnaby (proposed green infrastructure/transfer station), both of which projects have caused a great deal of environmental concern to residents and environmental stakeholders.

    Further to this overarching conversation, I believe that these policy and planning decisions are fundamentally at odds with Metro Vancouver’s 2050 Plan that articulates a number of strategies that aim to protect vulnerable ecosystems and to mitigate against negative climate change impacts through the retention and protection of wetlands, freeshwater resources, and bogs.

    These policies further include the consideration of natural assets and ecosystem services in land use decision-making and land management practices.

    I am happy to provide further details regarding this on-going issue and look forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience about this important, and time sensitive, matter.

    Best regards,

    Petrina Arnason

    Township of Langley

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