As we drove into the Port of Prince Rupert on a rainy dawn in July 1967, our rattletrap 1959 Opel station wagon got a ﬂat tire. My college roommate and I were on our way to work in Alaska that summer. Our jalopy was too dilapidated to make it up the unpaved Alaska-Canada Highway. We were heading into the port to catch the car ferry that would take us north to Haines Junction in Yukon.
A small ﬁshing port, Prince Rupert looked healthy enough. Fishing trawlers dotted the harbor, and workers on the day’s ﬁrst shift were entering the ﬁsh cannery, where the trawlers could unload their catch. There was no sign of the decline that would threaten the lifeblood of this small port in the 1990s, when the collapse of ﬁshing stocks decimated the ﬂeet.
The cannery lingered on until last year, when Chinese competition ﬁnally forced its closure. The town’s large paper and pulp mill closed long ago. The Fairview Terminal, a multipurpose breakbulk facility, had lost most of its pulp, steel and agricultural products and, most signiﬁcantly, lumber business. “We at the port authority had a plan for what positions we were going to let go and at what point in time we were going to shut the lights off,” said Don Krusel, president and CEO of the Prince Rupert Port Authority.
Fast forward 16 years and Prince Rupert has again become a critical port, thanks to the Fairview Container Terminal, whose 2007 opening ignited the port’s rebirth. Despite the town having a population of only 14,000 and limited local import market, the terminal, now operated by DP World, has turned Prince Rupert into one of North America’s fastest-growing container ports, and there’s no sign of it slowing down. The terminal’s ﬁ rst phase of development is nearing capacity, so a second berth is being built under Phase Two, which will almost double capacity when completed next year.
Prince Rupert’s success provides a fascinating study of how the companies that made it work identiﬁ ed a market and found a way to meet each of their needs, while providing an essential link to importers and exporters in the U.S. Midwest and Canada.
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