Longtime Richmond car importer runs out of gas

A sign advertising an auction of Fraser Wharves’ assets now stands at the longtime Richmond firm’s former property in Riverport. - Martin van den Hemel photo
A sign advertising an auction of Fraser Wharves’ assets now stands at the longtime Richmond firm’s former property in Riverport.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel photo

A Richmond business that has supplied vehicles to car dealerships for 42 years has sold its Riverport property to Port Metro Vancouver and ceased operation.

Fraser Wharves Ltd. closed its doors last week, a company official confirmed. The firm sold its 26.6-hectare (65.6-acre) property, at 13800 and 14000 Steveston Hwy., to the port March 15, 2013.

Fraser Wharves was the first of two automobile terminals to operate on the Fraser River, importing approximately 200,000 Japanese and General Motors vehicles each year.

It was only three years ago Fraser Wharves held a groundbreaking ceremony marking the replacement of an original building with a new facility for its 100 employees. Now it’s unclear what the future holds for the land.

Accounting manager Liza Tse said Fraser Wharves closed due to a decision from the Japanese parent company, Mitsui & Co. Ltd. Tse said she’s unaware of future plans for the site, but said an auction of the company’s remaining assets is set for Jan. 9, 2014.

Although the port didn’t respond to requests for comment this week, days following the sale community engagement advisor Frances Tang-Graham said in an online post that a change in use “is not expected at this time.”

“The purchase of the Fraser Wharves facility ensures terminal capacity continues to be available for port activity,” she wrote on Port Metro Vancouver’s website.

In a September interview with B.C. Shipping News, port CEO Robin Silvester said buying properties such as Fraser Wharves allows the port to ensure industrial lands are maintained.

“Had we not done that, those sites might have been sold and rezoned into other commercial or residential use and lost from the industrial land base. That would have been terrible,” he said.

A recent land use plan update from the port identified the South Arm as a key shipping route facing pressures from “the continued conversion of existing industrial uplands to residential and non-industrial uses by neighbouring municipalities.”

The Fraser Wharves property is one of three deep-sea terminals on the South Arm. Fraser Surrey Docks and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics—the region’s other auto terminal in New Westminster—are the others.

The port now owns land on either side of the Riverport condo community of Waterstone Pier, having purchased a property to the east in 2007 to accommodate a jet fuel offloading facility as part of a planned $100-million pipeline to the airport.

Another drive to further industrialize the area is underway. Across Steveston Highway to the north, Steveston No. 6 Limited Partnership has applied to rezone a vacant site to light industrial, which would allow a single-storey warehouse distribution centre development.

The land is currently zoned as Agricultural and Golf Zones/Entertainment and Athletics.

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