Editorial: Metro Vancouver shipping hub advocate needs funding lifeline

The departure of the Vancouver International Maritime Centre (VIMC) looms as a significant loss for more than the city’s global shipping hub aspirations. It will be a major missed opportunity for industry diversification in British Columbia.

It will also underscore the inability of Canadian governments to cultivate initiatives that have long-term financial value as opposed to merely having short-term political currency.

As Business in Vancouver reported earlier this year, VIMC’s government funding, which ran out at the end of March, has little hope of being restored. VIMC’s good work in attracting global shipping companies to locate major offices in Vancouver will therefore cease.

The organization, launched in Vancouver in September 2015, has scored a number of key wins in its mandate to help establish Metro Vancouver as a global shipping hub.

The value of that designation cannot be overstated.

B.C.’s west coast continues to grow as a transpacific cargo entry point for Asian trade. But there is far more to the global shipping game than cargo movement.

Shipping is a highly specialized sector that requires upstream expertise in areas like ship finance and insurance, logistics technology, maritime law and research and development. Concentrating that expertise in a major port like Vancouver would establish the city as a maritime hub that could generate an estimated spinoff of $20 billion annually for Canada’s economy. The VIMC has been instrumental in helping bring some of that expertise to B.C. in the form of such major players as Singapore-based China Navigation Co.  But much more is needed if B.C. is to graduate to shipping’s major leagues.

The VIMC, which has received approximately $5 million over the past three years, is a relatively low-risk, high-return investment.

Considering the multitude of high-risk, no-return projects too often favoured by governments for political expediency, VIMC would appear to fall into the no-brainer category when it comes to seeding and cultivating economic diversity.