A year in review: generational milestones and what is next for Port Saint John

From Port Saint John CEO, Craig Bell Estabrooks

*this photo is a rendering of the West Side of the harbour once the new pier is complete

Generational milestones are being achieved here at Port Saint John: record investments in our infrastructure with government partners, significant private sector supply chain spending in our region and unprecedented growth in our container business.  Ultimately, this means that more people are returning to work on our waterfront and the community can feel this increase in economic and social prosperity.  

We have come together as a port community with local ILA 273 to form a true Workforce Partnership, aided by the Government of New Brunswick. Our group secured two simulators that will dramatically increase the ability for future training with the Employers Association and ILA as they add more key positions to their workforce.   

Our great partnerships and alignment with DP World, CP Rail, and NB Southern Railway are why there have been more than 140,000 container TEUs moved through Port Saint John in 2022 to date, a new record. While there are many challenges that lie ahead, we take comfort in knowing we have world class partners at the table who will help us tackle difficult issues head on.  

What’s next on this front?  We are continuing to position the port for performance.  

Early in 2023, our second container pier will go into operation as phase 1 of modernization project comes online. This will allow for increased cargo fluidity, the introduction of new technologies, a deeper harbour, and the ability for two container ships to dock simultaneously.  

DP World will be floating into the harbour the two largest container cranes in the history of our port, bringing the total to four cranes.  This will forever change our skyline. 

Milestones are also occurring on the cruise front. 

The cruise sector made a triumphant return this year and our team worked closely with industry partners and public health to ensure that protocols were established and enforced. Our cruise industry is vital to many jobs in Southern New Brunswick and seeing ships back at our terminals was a welcome sight for many. We recently celebrated our 3 millionth cruise ship guest, which was momentous in illustrating the restart of this industry and the legacy it has in this port city. 

Though cruise ships have been docking on Water Street for more than 30 years, our welcome experience was dramatically different this year with an enhanced waterfront. The AREA506 Waterfront Container Village quickly became a place of pride where people from the community and cruise guests and crew found a new space to enjoy food, music, and New Brunswick goods. Since launching, AREA506 and Port Saint John have been recognized locally, nationally, and internationally for this innovative attraction.  At Port Saint John we know the development of new tourism products like AREA506 will keep visitors coming back for more.   

Throughout this time of renewed prosperity on the waterfront, we have become closer to the community than ever before with new engagement opportunities. One of these being The Port Pod, our first interpretation centre, located inside the AREA506 Waterfront Container Village. We interacted with 10,000 people at what we call our “Port Saint John storefront”, hosting a two-way dialogue with locals about the port’s operations. We also launched a Community Liaison Committee in 2022, which brings together neighborhood representatives from the Greater Saint John Area to share information, identify concerns, and address port-related issues. 

Another major community activity from 2022 was the Maiden Factor’s 10-day stopover in Saint John, an all-female ocean racing yacht on a three-year world tour sharing the message of empowering girls through education.

The crew aboard the DP World sponsored vessel led various outreach activities with youth groups while in port, embedding their message in our local community. It was amazing to see the ripple effect of this visit in the port city as hundreds of people had the opportunity to engage with the crew and rally behind such an important cause.  

With a year of change in the cargo and cruise sectors and the way we interact with our community, we are looking at all things differently now. We recently underwent a review of our vision values and purpose, grounding them in what Port Saint John is at its core. We tested our language and challenged our assumptions.  

Whether speaking to an employee, customer, or community member, we believe that our focus on people serves us well as connectors who find innovative solutions to create social and economic value.    

By building partnerships, we provide a platform for prosperity and sustainability.  We aspire to be a resilient pillar of our community, anticipating business needs and adapting to changing times. 

As we look forward as a team and with our partners, we’ll be embarking on a master planning process through 2023 that will at its tackle eight different subjects. At its heart it will: 

  • put wellness and safety in a paramount position,  
  • develop a port terminal expansion plan,  
  • seek to understand our infrastructure assets and their future needs 
  • embed data as an asset into the fibre of our work,  
  • focus on the fluidity of Canada’s supply chain and how we fit in,  
  • ensure our port-city transitions build pride of place for our community,  
  • and help combat climate change by decarbonizing our Port. 

We have many challenges and opportunities ahead, but the future is bright because we have partners and a community uniting to build something very special in our Port City.  We invite you to take this journey with us, reach out anytime, your input has contributed to where we are today, and we need it to keep moving forward.