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Neptune bulk terminals

Expanding Canada’s potash export capacity

Neptune Terminals Limited / North Vancouver, British Columbia


The province of Saskatchewan meets 35% of the demand for globally traded potash. Much of this mineral fertilizer passes through Neptune Terminals, one of the largest multiproduct bulk terminals in North America.

Located on 71 acres on Burrard Inlet, Neptune Terminals provides excellent deepwater access and sheltered loading for large vessels. In addition to two berths devoted to potash, the facility handles coal, phosphate rock, grain, and canola oil. Expansion efforts are challenged by the site, which is physically constrained.


In 2009, Neptune Terminals retained Hatch Mott MacDonald, a joint venture of Hatch and Mott MacDonald, for a CDN $49.3 million project to increase potash export capacity and reduce operational costs. The joint venture provided rail engineering, project management, construction management, contract administration, project controls services, and document control.

The design-bid-build project included the following:

  • Replace Rail Car Dumper 1 and conveyor belt, increasing rated capacity to 6,000 metric tons (MT) per hour
  • Upgrade conveyor system, including modifications to five conveyors and replacement of one existing conveyor
  • Replace existing surge bin with new 620 MT stainless steel bin and support tower
  • Construct two tunnels, one reaching 35 feet below grade
  • Construct new roadway overpass spanning alignment of two conveyors

The expansion increased Neptune’s annual potash capacity by about 30%, to 11.5 million metric tons.


Following the expansion, rail tracks can accommodate two potash trains, or 340 railcars, at one time. Two enclosed gravity-fed dumper pits can handle four railcars each. Two large storage sheds can store approximately 210,000 metric tons of potash and deliver it to Berth 2 or Berth 3. Separate cascade chutes are used for red or white potash, and the chutes “gently” deposit potash into the holds of vessels, minimizing breakage and dust.

As of 2010, Neptune Terminals held a 70% share of potash traffic through the West Coast. In 2011, Neptune Terminals handled a record 12.85 million metric tons of cargo and an estimated 7.2 million metric tons of potash.

Neptune Terminals President and CEO Jim Belsheim said, “We surpassed our previous handling record by 12%, while undergoing construction, which is a credit to the efforts of our operations, maintenance and construction teams. Through strategic investments in our terminal, we have delivered a reliable supply chain for our shareholders and their customers, and these investments are paying off.”

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