Opening new doors for First Nations communities

Opening new doors for First Nations communities

Date: 09/01/2023

The Canadian fishing town of Prince Rupert in Canada has been transformed by investment from DP World, as First Nations communities have been able to access new markets thanks to modern refrigeration facilities.

Untapped Opportunity

The waters around Prince Rupert are nutrient-rich and support an abundant sea life population, making the port a key commercial fishing hub. Operating the majority of the fishing licenses in the Prince Rupert area, the Lax Kw’alaams Band produce approximately 10-14 million pounds of fish a year, enabling the local indigenous community and economy to prosper and grow.

The community is also located in a prime location to export internationally, particularly to Asian markets. Prince Rupert is North America’s closest port to Asia – 36 hours closer to Shanghai than Vancouver and over 68 hours closer than Los Angeles.

Trading Difficulties

One of the pressing challenges facing the Lax Kw’alaams Band was how they could expand into new markets. Fish spoils and becomes hazardous for human consumption in just two hours – a critical challenge facing any exports from the region.

Expansion had been hindered in the past principally due to the logistics costs involved in any proposed expansion- namely the costs associated with transporting produce along the 1,500km road to Vancouver and the extensive shipping times to East Asia and beyond.

"We recognize that we operate on the traditional territory of the Tsimshian people.

We are proud to be an integral part of the Prince Rupert community; and are grateful to have developed lasting relationships that have had a positive environmental, cultural, and economic impact. DP World’s $500 million investment over the past six years at the Port of Prince Rupert has been critical to increasing global market access and positioning the community for growth. Today, the Lax-Kw’alaams First Nation can use our facility for exports, avoiding significant costs and accelerating their ability to bring goods to market. Metlakatla First Nation also provides most of the port’s container trucking service. We are proud of our operations here and of the opportunities it provides.”

- Maksim Mihic, CEO & General Manager, DP World (Canada) Inc.

Thriving Trade

In 2008, DP World started working with The Lax-kw'alaams Band to better understand how they operate and identify where it could increase growth. The community already had some trade infrastructure in place to support their vision for an aquaculture centre – where they would trade in everything from scallops and shellfish to seaweed and kelp - but it lacked the infrastructure to flash freeze fish or any refrigerated warehousing. Without this framework, selling beyond British Columbian borders proved unviable.

By engaging with this community and leveraging local knowledge and experience, DP World was able to make strategic infrastructural investments. By collaborating to make much-needed improvements to their infrastructure, the community can now trade directly through DP World facilities - reducing costs by more than $6,000 per container and increasing Canadian trade capacity with critical Asia-Pacific markets.

"First Nations communities have lived in Prince Rupert for more than 10,000 years and it's one of the most fertile grounds for aquaculture in the world. What they're trying to do is establish an aquaculture centre – where they can trade in everything from scallops and shellfish to seaweed and kelp,” explains Maksim Mihic, General Manager of DP World Canada. “We listened to their needs, and at their request, made a substantial investment in much-needed logistics infrastructure that would enable them to trade directly through our facility.”

The $650m investment at the Port of Prince Rupert has also generated 6,500 new jobs – making DP World 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 economy annually, improving the region’s stability.