The Canadian province of British Columbia is spending C$15 billion (HK$114.74 billion) to expand its Prince Rupert port facilities in a bid to become the preferred Pacific gateway for ships travelling between Asia and North America. Ports in Long Beach and Los Angeles, California, are now the most popular North American west coast destinations for Asian shipping lines. Using Prince Rupert can trim two days off the 12-day trip for a ship sailing from Shanghai to Long Beach. That, together with a fast and efficient rail network across the continent to Chicago, offers quicker delivery than United States ports, the British Columbia government says. 'The all-in transport time is unmatched by ports on the west coast, even the ports in Long Beach and Los Angeles,' the province's Transport Minister Kelvin Falcon said. Mr Falcon was in Hong Kong last week to meet shipping companies and the Airport Authority to tell them about the expansion of airport, port, road and railway infrastructure in British Columbia. Danish shipping conglomerate AP Moller-Maersk Group had been picked as the preferred bidder by the provincial government to invest in a C$650 million expansion plan in Prince Rupert, the minister said. The new facility will quadruple the port's capacity to two million 20-foot equivalent units when it opens in 2012. In the next two to three years, British Columbia is also planning a C$1.2 billion new terminal in Prince Rupert, which will double the capacity of the whole port area to more than four million teu by 2020. 'We would like to show the people that our government is serious about the investment and really confident of the target as the preferred gateway,' Mr Falcon said. He said Prince Rupert had just signed a three-year labour agreement with staff at the port to make sure that the port would be free of strikes in the next three years.