Intermodal Briefs: PRPA, ITS Logistics, POLB

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
Future site of Ridley Island Export Logistics Project (RIELP) (CNW Group/Prince Rupert Port Authority)

Future site of Ridley Island Export Logistics Project (RIELP) (CNW Group/Prince Rupert Port Authority)

The Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) begins construction on C$750 million Ridley Island Export Logistics Project (RIELP). Also, ITS Logistics releases its October forecast; and the Port of Long Beach (POLB) achieves its strongest September on record.


PRPA announced Oct. 19 that it is commencing construction on the C$750 million RIELP, an innovative large-scale logistics project that will provide expanded capacity and capabilities for rail-to-container transloading of multiple export products at the Port of Prince Rupert. The investment, PRPA says, “promises to deliver critical trade infrastructure that will improve supply chain resiliency, strategic market access and enhanced competitiveness for Canadian exports.”

“The development of this innovative project and its introduction of large-scale export logistics capabilities at the Port will fundamentally improve competitiveness for Canadian exporters and marks the opening of a new chapter of Prince Rupert intermodal growth,” said PRPA President and CEO Shaun Stevenson. “It also demonstrates the strong alignment of our corporate, government and community partners with PRPA’s strategic vision for growing Canadian trade.”

According to PRPA, the project will consist of a 108-acre greenfield development on Ridley Island that will commence operation in Q3 2026. Ray-Mont Logistics will develop and operate facilities that provide transloading service capacity for 400,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) for agricultural, forestry, and plastic resin products. Ray-Mont currently operates a successful multi-product transload facility on a temporary Ridley Island location that has “proven the export transload concept in Prince Rupert,” PRPA said.

“Ray-Mont is committed to developing and expanding our successful export transload business in Prince Rupert and believes that RIELP represents an ideal platform to significantly increase the scale, efficiency and level of service to our existing and future customers,” said Ray-Mont Logistics President and CEO Charles Raymond. “RIELP will be unique in North America in terms of its ability to simultaneously handle multiple unit trains of varying commodities and significantly decarbonize the logistics chain.”

The project, PRPA says, will also include an expansion of the existing Ridley Island Road Rail Utility Corridor that will facilitate unit trains 10,000 feet in length with direct access to the site from the CN network. The transload facilities will be connected to Fairview Container Terminal by direct private road access, the 5-kilometer Fairview-Ridley Connector Corridor, “ensuring all product movements will be within PRPA jurisdiction and fully avoid public infrastructure.” The full electrification of transload facilities, optimization of rail, and the minimal truck drayage cumulatively represent a significant step forward in decarbonizing Canada’s export supply chains, according to the Authority.

“CN is pleased to be a part of this project. It builds on the growth potential we see in the Port of Prince Rupert and opens up another export supply chain for our North American network,” said CN Executive VP and Chief Marketing Officer Doug MacDonald.

RIELP, PRPA says, will provide new and innovative capacities for Canadian exporters to Asia Pacific markets. “The project’s large scale, unit train capabilities, access to available empty containers, and proximity and integration into container terminal operations make it a unique model that promises the ability to deliver significant new service offerings to exporters that will greatly improve the quality, cost and reliability of container supply chains,” according to the Authority.

According to PRPA, the project’s development is fully aligned with the Authority’s land use plan and intermodal development strategy. In addition to its commercial advantages, RIELP” will result in stronger volumes for loaded export containers moving through the Port of Prince Rupert and a more sustainable balance in its intermodal import and export trade,” PRPA said. The development of increased logistics capacity is seen by PRPA as a “strategic prerequisite to supporting the stability of existing and future container volumes through Prince Rupert, and the trade, employment and economic opportunities they support.”

Local Indigenous partners will be active participants in the development and operation of RIELP. The primary contract for Ridley Island site development has been awarded to an Indigenous joint venture arrangement that includes Metlakatla First Nation, Lax Kw’alaams Band, Gitxaała Nation and IDL Projects Inc. Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams are also majority owners of Gat Leedm Logistics, which will be a primary service provider of truck drayage services.

Total capital investment in RIELP will be approximately C$750 million, and is being provided by PRPA, Ray-Mont Logistics, CN, the Government of Canada, and the Government of BC. Canada’s National Transportation Corridor Fund is providing C$64.8 million and the Province’s Stronger BC program is providing C$25 million toward the project.

ITS Logistics

ITS Logistics on Oct. 19 released the October forecast for the ITS Logistics US Port/Rail Ramp Freight Index, revealing that “port operations continue to run smoothly in all regions without any major interruptions.” Trucking providers are also being urged to focus on sustainable rates this season, according to the third-party logistics company.

“Terminal operations on the U.S. West Coast are the best they’ve been in years, and terminal operations throughout the U.S. are in great shape,” said ITS Logistics Vice President of Drayage and Intermodal Paul Brashier. “I don’t foresee shippers experiencing demurrage or ramp storage issues as there is enough trucking capacity to pull containers effectively. There has been increased reports of capacity and drivers exiting the market, and that is one focal point that shippers should be mindful of as they move forward in the month.”

According to a recent FreightWaves study, ITS Logistics reports that “it is suggested that the trucking market has 78 weeks to go before capacity is back in balance with historical trends.” As of September 2022, the market has churned an average of 435 fleets per week. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, ITS Logistics reports, confirmed that of the approximately 531,000 carriers, 99% operate 100 or fewer trucks. In addition, almost 97% of carriers have fewer than 10 trucks. While diesel prices continue to increase, ITS Logistics says, “more freight carriers are expected to exit the market, numbers rose in September and remained close to near-record highs that were seen in the second quarter.” AAA confirmed that the national average for diesel prices on Monday lingered at $4.456 but is still down from $5.271 just one year ago.

“As trucking rates continue to plummet, many trucking providers are operating at a loss to maintain revenue streams,” continued Brashier. “As fuel, insurance, and liability costs continue to rise in this low-rate environment, trucking capacity will exit at a rate higher than new capacity entering the market. Prior to exiting the market, financially struggling trucking capacity will sacrifice staff, safety, security of freight, and operational excellence. Obtaining cheap rates in this environment will be easy; the concern needs to be focused on how long those rates will be sustainable.”

The ITS Logistics US Port/Rail Ramp Freight Index forecasts port container and dray operations for the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf regions. Ocean and domestic container rail ramp operations are also highlighted in the index for both the West Inland and East Inland regions. A full comprehensive copy of the index with expected forecasts for the US port and rail ramps is available here.


POLB on Oct. 19 reported that it has achieved its busiest September record, “boosted by consumer demand for holiday-related goods, recent ratification of a labor pact between dockworkers and management and an ongoing effort to showcase the business attributes of the ‘Port of Choice.’”

According to POLB, dockworkers and terminal operators moved 829,429 TEUs in September, up 11.8% from the same month last year and surpassing the previous record set in September 2020 by 78,849 TEUs. September also marked the Port’s first monthly year-over-year cargo increase in 14 months.

Imports rose 19.3% to 408,926 TEUs, while exports declined 10.3% to 101,248 TEUs. Empty containers moving through the Port grew 11.5% to 319,255 TEUs.

Pier J, Port of Long Beach, SSA, Wan Hai The Wan Hai 362 departs the Port of Long Beach, CA Aerials in September 2023

“Consumer confidence is on the rise and shippers can rely on the Port of Choice now that we have a ratified contract in place with our waterfront workforce,” said POLB CEO Mario Cordero. “We look forward to a moderate rebound in cargo volume through the end of the year.”

“Offering the best service and facilities anywhere while supporting our labor and industry partners remains our top priority,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Bobby Olvera Jr. “Merchants and consumers can prepare for the holiday season with confidence in our ability to deliver goods reliably, quickly and sustainably.”

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association announced a tentative agreement on June 14. Dockworkers of the ILWU ratified the six-year contract on Aug. 31.

According to the Port, POLB has moved 5,822,666 TEUs during the first nine months of 2023, down 20.7% from the same period last year. Cargo volume this year has been on pace with pre-pandemic levels when the Port of Long Beach moved more than 5.7 million TEUs through September 2019. Additionally, the Port processed 2,089,990 TEUs between July 1 and Sept. 30, down 10.5% from the third quarter of 2022.

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