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Indigenous communities in Canada find new markets for fish in Asia

Expert opinions

DP World is working with the First Nations to ensure proper infrastructure is in place for the community to prosper.

Since DP World began investing in Prince Rupert, we have been working closely with the First Nations elders to ensure Canada's indigenous community prospers as the port expands.

It began when we realised the necessity for more modernised reefers to support local First Nations’ fisheries, investing $5 million to upgrade existing facilities and contracting a management company from Montreal to manage the maintenance.

And just last year, we awarded a construction contract to a Tsimshian First Nations contractor for the supply and delivery of all the required rock-fill for a second container terminal, which will double the port’s capacity.

Prior to our investment in the region, the community already had some trade infrastructure in place to support their vision for an aquaculture centre – where they can trade in everything from scallops and shellfish to seaweed and kelp. But it lacked the infrastructure to flash freeze fish or any refrigerated warehousing to realise its ambition.

Between the logistics costs and the time it took to get to market, selling beyond British Columbian borders proved unviable.

For a community that owns and operates most of Prince Rupert's fishing licenses and produces approximately 10-14 million pounds of fish a year, this was a huge opportunity for us and for First Nations to modernise its infrastructure and access global markets.

The Journey To Unchartered Waters

For local First Nations communities in Prince Rupert, a port city on the west coast of British Columbia, cutting out the prohibitive 1,500km road transport costs to Vancouver and reducing shipping time to East Asia and beyond was a key factor in their growth plans – but was too expensive to resolve alone.

In 2008, we started working with The Lax-kw'alaams Band to better understand how they operate and identify where we could enable their growth. We listened to their requirements and, at their request, made substantial investments in much-needed infrastructure so they could trade directly through our facility.

In 2019, The Lax-kw'alaams Band travelled to Shanghai, China, and met our representatives to identify the best logistics plan to see their products arrive quickly and safely in Asian markets. The most logical route was through the Port of Prince Rupert, North America’s closest port to Asia – 36 hours closer to Shanghai than Vancouver and over 68 hours closer than Los Angeles.

Thriving Trade Today

Today The Lax-kw'alaams Band can ship directly from the port – reducing costs by more than $6,000 per container. Over the past six years, our $650m investment at the Port of Prince Rupert has also generated 6,500 new jobs – becoming the largest employer in the community. 40 percent of the port’s workforce is from the First Nations, and approximately $100 million in wages is injected back into the community annually, improving the region’s socio-economic stability.

Meanwhile, our ongoing commitment to several community-based projects – like the sponsorship of the Coast Tsimshian Cultural Exhibit Heritage Art Installation at the Prince Rupert Regional Airport – has proved invaluable to the region. Furthermore, our investments boost long-term healthcare services for First Nations communities with $1 million raised for St. Paul’s Hospital to continue its world-class medical services.

We are proud of our relationship with the First Nations and are grateful they allow us to operate in traditional territories. As we unlock new geographies, we must collaborate with existing communities to transfer knowledge and build resilient networks that enable trade and prosperity to flow for local economies.

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