Editorial: Seize shipping centre initiative now

Diversification being the new reality for B.C.’s economy, the work of the Vancouver International Maritime Centre (VIMC) needs long-term government commitment.

The diversification in this case promises significant local and national returns.

As chronicled in “Vancouver now a leading international shipping centre: EU competitiveness report” (Business in Vancouver issue 1427; March 7-13), Deloitte’s EU Shipping Competitiveness Study considers the Port of Vancouver among a handful of rising stars that pose a competitive threat to the European Union’s massive maritime industry, which is “at risk of losing ground to other globally leading shipping centres.”

B.C.’s West Coast ports have a lot going for them operationally and geographically. They’re also serviced by two efficient national railways and, unlike many of their American counterparts, their trade mandate extends beyond regional to national interests. The EU report also awards the Port of Vancouver high marks in regulatory, economic and political categories.

What the port lacks, however, are the many maritime service industry companies that are critical to efficient cargo movement and global shipping hub aspirations. That’s where an organization like VIMC comes in.

Its mandate is to persuade more shipping industry companies to establish major offices in Vancouver. The organization is funded primarily by the federal and provincial governments. B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong’s Budget 2017 speech noted that the province is committed to maintaining its partnership with the VIMC as a followup to the $1 million provided to it in Budget 2016. But VIMC starts Year 3 of its current mandate in April. The organization has no guarantee of subsequent funding. The momentum gained thus far by VIMC in its push to strengthen Vancouver’s shipping expertise will be lost if that funding is not extended. That would be short-sighted, especially in light of the global profile Vancouver has received in the EU report and the increasingly competitive edge it is developing in the international shipping game.