Op-Ed – Canada’s Port Authorities: Keeping Goods Moving, Preparing for the Future

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Op-Ed – Canada’s Port Authorities: Keeping Goods Moving, Preparing for the Future

April 5, 2022

By Daniel-Robert Gooch

Every year on April 5th, the Association of Canadian Port Authorities (ACPA) commemorates Western Hemisphere Ports Day in partnership with the American Association of Port Authorities. The annual event recognizes the role of ports of the Americas in the efficient movement of goods, job creation and propelling the economy both at home and abroad.

This year’s Ports Day theme, Resiliency & Building a Sustainable Future, explores the willpower, adaptability and drive of the port industry, all qualities that have allowed port authorities to navigate through challenging times, with minimal disruptions.

In fact, the role of supply chains in the everyday lives of Canadians and the health of our export sectors has never been more prominent than it has been these past two years. Canada’s ports have done well considering the global disruptions to supply chains the world has seen throughout the pandemic. And, additional attention to the role of Canadian ports was brought on by unfortunate natural disasters, such as flooding in the lower mainland of British Columbia, and our ability to get energy commodities to global markets amidst the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Nevertheless, ports kept goods moving, employed Canadians and supported their communities during these times.

Ports are at the forefront of modernizing supply chain infrastructure, utilizing new, innovative ideas to create a more sustainable future. While these events may have led to our country’s renewed interest in its ports and supply chain logistics, Canada’s port authorities have been consumed with ensuring long term capacity needs are met through a resilient, sustainable national port system.

Indeed, maintaining critical trade-enabling infrastructure while investing in the future is a challenge that all of Canada’s port authorities face – albeit in different ways, given the great diversity among our maritime gateways. ACPA was pleased to participate in the Government of Canada’s recent National Supply Chain Summit, where we put forward recommendations on how to do just that.

Canada’s port authorities have also long been critical to the federal government’s efforts on trade and supply chains, including funding for port infrastructure through the National Trade Corridors Fund (NTCF). Through ACPA’s 2022 pre-budget submission, Canada’s port authorities made additional suggestions to promote supply chain resiliency, decarbonization and trade facilitation, calling on the federal government to:

  • Continue focused National Trade Corridor Funding to support supply chain resilience;
  • Develop dedicated funding for port infrastructure focused on decarbonization and the energy transition;
  • Develop a dedicated financial support to scale green shipping corridors at Canadian ports; and
  • Revive the Shore Power Technology for Ports Program offered by Transport Canada.

Meanwhile, greater financial flexibility for Canada’s port authorities would allow many of them to privately finance investments, rather than rely on federal funding. Structural changes are needed from the federal government, however, to permit risk-based access to private sources of capital and accelerate major infrastructure project completion, alleviating the need for federal funding.

Most port authorities have borrowing limits that were set decades ago; they are now insufficient to raise the capital needed for many of the country’s needed infrastructure investments. Amending borrowing limits is such a lengthy process that interested private capital often walks away. ACPA also recommends that the government revise the current formula for establishing borrowing limits and that these criteria be determined by commercial lenders. Our members look eagerly to the outcome of the federal government’s Port Modernization Review, expected later this year, to see if our longstanding call on this point is addressed in the report.

Canada is looking to the future, to how we can emerge and prosper after COVID-19. Recovery is an opportunity to transition Canada into a leadership role in green, inclusive, digital, and resilient port supply chains. The recovery will require trade and global connections to build wealth, and Canada’s port authorities will be central to facilitating our country’s sustainable recovery.

Daniel-Robert Gooch is President and CEO of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities. ACPA represents the interests of the 17 Canada port authorities that make up the National Ports System.

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