Winnipeg’s CentrePort, with its hub-spoke position in the middle of the North American continent, and Saskatchewan’s Global Transportation Hub, are two of Canada’s inland ports looking to grow as key intersections for Canadian trade. Situated at the eastern end of the Asia Pacific Gateway, and at the very western end of the Atlantic Gateway, CentrePort is the only inland port in Canada to offer direct access to tri-modal transportation options including road, rail and air cargo.
The Province of Manitoba and CentrePort Canada signed a land transfer agreement this September that will give the inland port corporation better means to develop 747 acres located within its footprint, the majority of which has been designated for the construction of a common- use rail facility and adjacent industrial park.
“The goal is for the facility to be accessible by all three Class I rail carriers and we have been working with the industry on our development plans,” says Diane Gray, president and CEO of CentrePort Canada. “There is a real opportunity for this facility to be a differentiator for CentrePort among North American inland ports, and this collaboration between government, CentrePort and industry will allow us to move forward with our plans.”
CentrePort is deeply involved in the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce’s “Bold” campaign initiative, which seeks input from the broader community, business, labour, and post secondary institutions, on ideas that help to put Winnipeg on the map. The Chamber is one of the founding members in many of the inland port initiatives.
“We see opportunities for companies with both import and export supply chains. We have the ability to grow as a staging area for the north in fresh and frozen food products, and as mining developments take place in the north there’s also the potential to stage for these. We’re looking at capitalizing on our geographic advantage,” says Gray.
The port also offers investors single window access to Foreign Trade Zone benefits, notes Gray, and is the only inland port in Canada to do so.
“What we offer with the federal government of Canada is single window access to Federal foreign trade zone products. This approach allows for the ability to not only be responsive to information requests but allows for the group (CentrePort, the province of Manitoba, and the city of Winnipeg) to go for specific opportunities that could be brought to that province. It’s been a very positive experience for us,” says Gray, noting that the port has also approved new bonded customs warehouse facilities.
In 2012, CentrePort partnered with Invent IOT Technology in a pilot project that aims to ensure the quality, integrity, origin and safety of Manitoba and Canadian agriculture products being exported from central Canada to consumer markets in inland and western China. They launched a cargo security system and trading platform that uses Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID).The new system was used to export Manitoba’s first-ever containerized shipment of homegrown soybeans to China for distribution.
“This initiative was launched largely in response to a business case in China-there were a couple of factors that our partners in China had brought to our attention, some of it related to cargo theft and traceability, some around being able to track and trace the entire supply chain from origin in Canada to end receiver in Canada,” says Gray. The second part of the business case is driven by the amount of food counterfeiting and concerns over food safety in China.
“In China you are likely to find products ‘made in Canada’ that cover story Map: Courtesy of CentrePort Canada Inc. 13 ct&l november 2013 www.ctl.ca have actually not been made here. That has led to fair bit of concern over health and safety. Chinese importers identified to us that by attaching an identity preservation (RFID) mechanism to the product they would be able to guarantee the product. It’s a system we’re looking at with our partners in Canada and we think there’s an opportunity to be able to enhance the value chain of Canadian products and ultimately create a product niche in China,” says Gray.
In the fall of 2012, CN Railway opened a 100,000 square foot training centre in Winnipeg that will host 250 to 300 employees each week towards the company’s revamped training initiative. In terms of road infrastructure, CentrePort Canada Way, a new four-lane divided expressway standard providing road access to CentrePort, and to national and international highways, is nearing completion. The $212.4-million project, funded by the governments of Canada and Manitoba, is the largest highway capital project in Manitoba history, says CentrePort.
Regina-based Global Transportation Hub (GTH) is also just completing a $32.8 million infrastructure project, which is based on its Concept Plan. It delivers close to four kilometers of roadways and asphalt paving, water and sanitary sewer lines, site grading and storm channel construction. “Through this new alliance program, the GTH and brokers can leverage the combined expertise of our teams to attract clients looking to drive transportation, logistics and supply chain business outcomes,” says Rhonda Ekstrom, Vice President of Business Development for the GTH. GTH developed a strategic alliance program with commercial brokers in the province of Saskatchewan, with the goal of constructing a working relationship based on industry best practices.
“Already in operation is the one million square foot warehouse and distribution centre that is owned by one of our anchor clients Loblaw, which has invested about $250 million in the project,” says Blair Wagar, Chief Operating Officer of the GTH.
Another anchor client is Canadian Pacific (CP) Rail, which is nearing completion of a 300-acre Intermodal Facility (IMF), which will increase its capacity for container lifts from about 40,000 to over 250,000 lifts per year. CP has invested about $50 million at the GTH. Overall private investment is about $340 million to date. Bill No. 81, a bill introduced in the Saskatchewan legislature last year, moves the control of the development and operations of the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) from municipal to provincial jurisdiction.
Associate editor Julia Kuzeljevich has been writing about transportation issues for more than a decade. Her meticulously researched articles have garnered several transportation and Canadian Business Press writing awards.