Diane Crocker (diane.crocker@thewesternstar.com)
Published Thu May 20, 2021 4:40 PM ADT
Updated Thu May 20, 2021 11:50 PM ADT

CORNER BROOK, N.L. — The Corner Brook Port Corp. generates a fair amount of its revenue from the cruise ship industry.

With cruising dead in the water for most of 2020 that would leave one thinking it couldn’t have been a good year for the port.

But that wasn’t the case as the port finished out 2020 with a 56 per cent increase in overall revenue.

During the corporation’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, board chair Verbon Hewlin said 2020 marked the first year that the corporation has operated independently. The 15-year divestiture program that saw the port being able to draw on divestiture funds to cover operational and maintenance costs ended in the fall of 2019.

Hewlin said the COVID-19 pandemic brought many unprecedented challenges on global supply chains and the shipping industry.

The Corner Brook Port Corporation held its annual general meeting on Wednesday. — Contributed
The Corner Brook Port Corporation held its annual general meeting on Wednesday. — Contributed

The Corner Brook port persevered and saw significant growth, much of which can be attributed to the launch of a regular international container shipping service.

The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) began making twice-monthly calls to the port in May 2020 to pick up paper destined for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Ltd.’s international markets.

In October the service was increased to a weekly one and the port is looking at the addition of other products for export, including fish.

To get into the fishery the port will need a cold storage facility and that’s something it will work on in 2021, said Jackie Chow, CEO and port manager.

The port has $4.4 million in funding left in its National Trade Corridors Project fund that will be used for the construction of a cold storage facility.

Chow said they are looking at the size of a warehouse that can be built with that budget and will be looking for other industry partners that are interested in participating in the project.

“That would allow us to build a greater volume of cold storage to try to meet the needs of the industry.”

Space at the port is limited, but an area has been identified within its boundaries that would be suitable for the facility.

“It wouldn’t be right on the dock, but it would certainly be on the waterfront,” said Chow.

Asked if there is the possibility of using the facility for agriculture, Chow said it wasn’t being considered right now.

“We’re really not looking at building cold storage for the sake of being in the cold storage business. We’re really doing it to support the container service.”

However, she said the port would be open to satisfying some of that need in the agriculture industry if it has excess capacity. The only problem being the agriculture and fishing seasons occur at the same time, so it may not be able to do both.

In terms of its financial position, the port generated over $2.5 million in revenue in the year. That’s over $900,000 more than it did in 2019.

Almost $1.5 million of that came under the operating stream, where the container service falls, and was up over $700,000 from 2019.

The port finished the year with a net income of $1,482,576.

Revenue

2020
Operating – $1,477,229
Operational leasing – $522,656
Property leasing – $586,561
Total – $2,586,446

2021
Operating – $740,997
Operational leasing – $ 430,207
Property leasing – $ 490,928
Total – $1,662,132

Expenses

2020
$1,088,939

2019
$1,092,365

Net income

2020
$1,482,576

2019
$925,934

“Diversifying our revenue streams has been a key component to achieving some of our objectives over the past number of years and will continue to be a priority,” said Hewlin.

Hewlin said cruise tourism has had an impact on the local and regional economy for years and the suspension of the industry in 2020 meant a significant loss to many ports and communities across the country.

“However, we’re hopeful that when the time is right cruise ships will be returning. Till then we’ll continue to prepare for cruise resumption by being an active voice in the industry among our key stakeholders.”

Jennifer Hartley, the corporation’s business development manager, said there had been 20 cruise ships booked for 2020 and 16 in 2021. She expected the latter number would have increased if the cruise suspension had not been extended to February 2022.

Currently, there are 22 cruise ship visits booked for 2022.

Hartley said the port does have some work to do to get ready. That includes looking at other regions that are actively cruising to see what protocols have been put in place.

“So, we expect the return to cruising will look different.”

People may not see passengers walking about and interacting with the community as freely as before the pandemic, and tours will have to be kept within bubbles. But she expects those are things that will change down the road.

Chow added the port will also have to address its own infrastructure in terms of how it’s going to handle cruise traffic within a very active container ship operation.

Please visit the original article here: https://www.saltwire.com/atlantic-canada/business/international-container-service-helps-corner-brook-port-corporation-weather-2020-100590625/