It is never easy to say goodbye to friends, but retirement after 40-plus years in the marine industry sounds good.
This will be my last President’s Report for the NPA Newsletter as I will retire from the Port effective
September 30. The old saying that time moves fast definitely applies to my time with the Port.
I arrived on January 9, 2009 for my first day with the NPA in what was one of the worst snow storms on record for Nanaimo. I arrived at
the old building at 104 Front little after 8:30 (I wanted to present a good impression) to chaos as you know a snow day in Nanaimo is always a challenge. It must have been a sign of what was to come.
I came from an organization with
hundreds of staff to an office of about ten and an organization of under 20. The family atmosphere was definitely noticeable during my first few months. As the months flew by I began to enjoy the environment and started to tackle the job at hand.
In 2009 the Port was struggling to secure cargo after the effects of the U.S.A. financial crisis. Our key customers were attempting to adjust to the loss of traditional markets and our first deep-sea breakbulk vessel did not materialize until August
and the mood looked grim for the Port.
The Port’s traditional breakbulk loading of dimensional lumber business was most affected by the market changes and the Port needed to react quickly to adjust to the loss of this
volume commodity. It was extremely important that the Port looked at itself and how the supply chain on Vancouver Island was evolving.
The introduction of containerization offered a quick shift and a new volume commodity to replace
the cargoes of yesterday. Bringing DP World onboard in 2012, a global terminal operator, with more than 70 terminals around the world, provided the Port with a partner that was willing to explore new ideas.
In 2012 DP World commenced
the container barge service that started the Port’s attention on Short-Sea Shipping. Our first year’s 4,000 TEUs has grown to close to 50,000 in 2017. The port’s cargo volumes have increased more than 300% from what we had in 2009 and the
Port has a solid diversified cargo base moving forward.
The short-sea shipping business is flourishing to include other commodities and Nanaimo has established itself as the marine gateway for Vancouver Island. Vancouver Island customers
can now connect to any destination around the world using the Port’s short-sea shipping operation
One of the most exciting projects for me was to complete the Port’s Cruise Initiative, the construction of the cruise passenger
terminal at the Assembly Wharf property. The Board of the day decided to enhance the Port’s ability to handle people and in particular cruise ships by building a dedicated dock and welcome centre. I was tasked to secure the last piece of the funding
which was to get the Federal Government to support the project. In early 2010 the federal government announced $8.5 million toward the project. Construction began that August and the terminal opened May 2011 with the arrival of the Norwegian Pearl –
some ten months from start to finish.
The Port is still struggling with our cruise business, attempting to reach our goal of 20-25 calls per year. I am personally disappointed with the lack of community support of the project. The
Port constructed the infrastructure and hoped the community would rally to enhance the city’s appeal as a global tourist destination. Unfortunately the Port continues to sell Nanaimo as a destination with very little support from our local tourism community.
The “Marine Domain Awareness System” which the Port has created with our partner Xanatos Marine of North Vancouver, is by far my greatest personal win. The system has provided a new layer of marine security and safety to our Port and I
hope will be applied across Canada in the years ahead.
The past eight and half years as President and CEO of the Nanaimo Port Authority have been the most enjoyable and gratifying time of my career. I am pleased to have been part
of the NPA’s transformation from a forest products distribution centre to a multi-modal port operation.
The Port’s success cannot be attributed to one person but to a group of people working together to achieve a common
goal. There is a quote I remember from Henry Ford’s biography that comes to mind: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
I thank our Port customers, stakeholders,
and staff for their co-operation over my time at the NPA. I am leaving with the belief that the hard days are behind for the Port and that the future is bright and the opportunities are endless.
My intention is to stay on Vancouver
Island and I look forward watching the continued growth of the NPA.
Take care, Bernie