Managing the day-to day operations of North America's largest export port, while mitigating its impact on the local community, is a delicate balancing act not lost on Port Metro Vancouver's CEO Robin Silvester.
One in every five dollars worth of trade in Canada moves through the port (PMV), sustaining, in the process, 60,000 jobs across the Metro Vancouver region.
It would be naive to assume the vibrations from such footfall don't register at ground level in the region where the port does business.
"To give you an example of how we engage with the community; last year we had two meetings a day, everyday, that involved the public," Silvester told the News.
"We hear people and we understand. We understand their frustrations, especially with regard to traffic and noise."
Decision-making One of the single, biggest public relations problems PMV currently faces is confusion over its authority, its accountability and how it decides on proposals for new operations in its waters.
"We recognize this as a problem and we are working on making it clearer to the public," admitted Silvester.
"If we use the coal export expansion as an example: It's land that comes under our jurisdiction, it's in our land use plan. For (the exporter) to be able to do this, they have to apply for a permit from us." Addressing accusations that PMV, the federal entity on the aforementioned coal expansion proposal, was working too closely with the proponent (Fraser Surrey Docks) - apparently inappropriate email exchanges between a public relations firm representing a coal industry lobby group and the port were made public - Silvester drew comparisons to dealings at city hall.
"The same accusations could be leveled at city hall, where staff usually work very closely with developers," he said.
The difference, however, is that local developments are accepted or rejected by city council, which is elected by voters.
Tunnel, fuel plan Ever since Premier Christy Clark announced the tearing up of the jam-packed Massey Tunnel last month, skeptics began questioning the government's motives and the role PMV played in pushing the "Tube's" replacement with a bridge.
Some critics have even gone as far as to suggest the only reason the region is getting a multi-billion dollar transportation project is to facilitate larger vessels' passage up the shallow tunnel section of the Fraser River.
Not so, said Silvester, who insists the tunnel replacement has been on the cards for a long time.
"Ask someone in Delta what's the most important issue for them," he said.
"We've seen the potential for growth south of the river and seen major infrastructure investment, so logically, the government is looking to help that growth. The tunnel is one of those critical impediments to that growth."
And when it comes to the review of the controversial proposal to ship aviation fuel up the river and then off-load it onto land that the port would rent out, Silvester insists it doesn't have the power to trump the province.
"This (project) needs both the B.C. permit and the federal permit to proceed. We can't override the other."
Although, PMV has shown its ability to override the province's Agricultural Land Commission by buying up farmland for its own purposes.
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