Fort St. John’s Ted Pickell, who has owned and operated Arctic Construction for 62 years, has launched a new venture in the coastal town of Stewart: a port.
Pickell has built the first commercial wharf on B.C.’s coast in more than 30 years. It is the most northerly port in B.C. that can unload break bulk cargo, goods that must be loaded individually—not in intermodal containers— or in bulk with oil or grain.
The Port of Prince Rupert is further north, but only handles containers, Pickell explained in an interview with the Alaska Highway News.
Stewart World Port, which held its grand opening last Wednesday, is located at the end of the Portland Canal in one of the most mineral rich areas of North America called the Golden Triangle. The port is the only commercial break bulk wharf north of Squamish.
“Some of the largest mineral resources found and yet to be found lie in the vicinity of Stewart,” Pickell said.
“Stewart serves, and will serve more now, a large mining area from Mount Milligan, if you like, a present mine north of Prince George, across to the coast here, and in the Eastern Yukon.”
Customers include mining, forestry, oil and gas, and project cargoes. Outbound cargoes – equally important as those coming in, Pickell said – include bulk mineral concentrates, wood chips, wood pellets and logs, LNG and coal.
“There’s two or three large mines north of here that will be shipping in excess of a million tonnes per year each. And there’s several small mines in the one-to-two-hundred thousand range per year.
"There’s a large deposit of anthracite coal, which is coking coal, which is the most valuable coal on the market, there’s a world class deposit within 200 kilometres of Stewart,” he said.
Inbound cargo will include mine resupply, pipe, modules, project supplies and equipment, as well as cement powder.
The location is ideal, but not only for its proximity to valuable resources.
“It’s a deep sea port ... the shallowest place in this channel is, in the Portland Canal, in excess of 300 feet deep, and the narrowest point in the channel is a kilometer-and-a-half wide. There’s favourable winds in here, and good anchorage,” said Pickell.
One minor drawback is the fact that no rail line exists nearby, with the closest being 220 kilometres away.
“It’d be handy if there was a rail here for sure,” he said.
The first two phases of construction, completed by Pickell’s own company Arctic Construction, represent a $70-million investment.
Pickell, who was born in Fort St. John, felt that after more than half a century of building projects for others, the time was ripe to create something of his own.
“Arctic Construction is a 62-year old company, and we’ve been building projects for other clients for that long, and decided it was time to build something for myself, and we did it,” Pickell said.
Although his new port is located in the district municipality of Stewart, Pickell has no plans to leave his hometown.
“I’m a lifer,” he said.
Mayor Lori Ackerman, Bob Zimmer, and Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of B.C., were among the 350 guests at the port's grand opening last week.