Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO Curtis Grad

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO Curtis Grad

Future expansion eyed for Victoria’s Ogden Point

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO Curtis Grad unveils his vision for waterfront

Victoria is home to Canada’s busiest cruise ship port of call and the 500,000 visitors expected to disembark at Ogden Point in 2013 mean no other city is competing for the title.

But with the projected increase in cruise traffic comes a need for expansion – a master plan now two years in the making for the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

The plan for the future of the hub, shaped by consultation with the public and dependent on zoning from the city, won’t be complete likely for another year.

Curtis Grad, the GVHA’s chief executive officer and president discussed early details of expansion, from the possibility of an additional berth to those notorious breakwater handrails.

“With the larger ships coming on board and the Panama Canal being expanded, we will see larger ships in this market and they could be upwards of 330 to 360 metres long,” Grad said.

Another challenge: half of the port is landfill. The reclaimed land has less capacity for development, but plays an important role in supporting crews, Grad said. Since dredging two years ago, the berths can easy accommodate ships up to 315 metres in length.

“As we continue to grow in the Alaska market over the next 20 years, we will actually need a fourth berth, likely in the Victoria area, not necessarily at Ogden, to capture the growth.”

Esquimalt and Sidney are as yet uninvestigated possibilities, he said.

Bigger changes won’t be on the way until after the master plan is complete, a process expected to take the better part of this year.

In the meantime, 2013 will bring smaller upgrades which fall within the current zoning restrictions. A key component: a multipurpose float facility which would allow water taxi service to downtown and decrease congestion, and allow whale watching boat access.

Other changes include the installation of a covered passenger waiting area made from the reclaimed E&N Railway roof. Reconfiguration of the parking areas, improvement of walking pathways and linking with the city’s harbour pathway are among the finer details.

Victoria Coun. Pam Madoff is hopeful the harbour authority will continue to uphold the standard set during the rezoning of Fisherman’s Wharf, which saw a unanimous agreement formed after months of consultation.