What do you see when looking at the Fraser River?

Forklift operator moves lumber at the Fraser Surrey Dock operation.   - Courtesy of Fraser Surrey Docks
Forklift operator moves lumber at the Fraser Surrey Dock operation.
— image credit: Courtesy of Fraser Surrey Docks

While interviewing for this job at the Fraser River Discovery Centre, one of the questions asked was “What do you see when you look at the Fraser River?”

I don’t recall my answer at that time, but if asked today I would answer—employment.

If we were to time travel back to 1808, explorer Simon Fraser, with a company of 23 men, was employed to find a navigable river route to the Pacific Ocean.

Then there were the cannery years. Salmon fishery was developing rapidly, and around the 1880s many large commercial canneries were built along all branches of the river such as the North Arm and South Arm, including the Ladner area of the Fraser River. With steps in the canning process including making cans, gutting and cutting fish, filling cans, soldering lids and vents, testing seals, and varnishing and labeling cans, the industry depended on a large manual work force.

Fast track to today and if one was to stand on the New Westminster boardwalk overlooking the Fraser the jobs that come instantly to one’s mind would be that of tug operator and fisherman. But look further; now what do you see?

Directly across the Fraser on the southern banks sits the largest multi-purpose terminal on the west coast of North America—Fraser Surrey Docks. Established in 1962 to help meet the growing demand for breakbulk and container import and export, this 150-acre facility now employs 280 full-time workers. These employees are skilled and experienced in handling the valuable cargo of steel, lumber, pulp and paper, heavy equipment and machinery, mining materials and agricultural products.

To the west, on the eastern tip of Annacis Island sits one of two automotive terminals located on the Fraser River. Almost every car, approximately 400,000 annually, that comes to Canada from Asia arrives via the Fraser River. Currently, with the arrival of the 2013 models you can watch a steady stream of cars being unloaded from the large automotive carriers called RoRos (roll on/roll of). Once unloaded a large work force is activated to deal with customs clearance, storage, vehicle customization, pre-delivery inspection and shipment preparation.

Further upriver recreational activities associated with the river are noteworthy. Fishing, boating, rafting and a host of riverside activities are common throughout the river’s course relying on the nature loving individuals to showcase this fun element of the river to visitors from around the world.

Since the 19th century job opportunities have changed significantly but one thing has stayed consistent—the Fraser River has always contributed enormously to the livelihoods of so many. Employment opportunities that are connected to the 1,400-km working river are endless.  Today, the river generates 53,150 jobs.

So now, what do you see when you look at the River?


Cindy Sale is the communication and event coordinator at the Fraser River Discovery Centre.




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