Forestry, other commodity exports rebound at VanPort; Potash dives

VANCOUVER — Significant mid-year increases in forest product exports — as well as container, canola and inbound steel volumes — were reported by Port of Vancouver this week.

While coal and potash exports are down, lumber and wood pulp were up in the first half of 2006 from the same time last year by 12.7 percent and 12.2 percent respectively and containerization went up almost 25 percent.

Vanterm and Centerm facilities at the Vancouver Port

Chris Badger, vice-president of the VPA’s Customer Development and Operations, attributed the gains to a rebound in wood production from Pine Beetle infested areas, as well as a strengthening Japanese economy. “The turnaround in the Japanese economy represents additional opportunities for Canadian exports,” he said in a press release.

The impact of rising biodiesel and ethanol demand on global oilseed markets has resulted in a sharp 93 percent rise in exports of canola through the port to 2.3 million tonnes. Poor growing conditions elsewhere also led to higher demand for Canadian wheat and specialty crops leading to an overall 28 per cent growth in the grain category at 5.5 million tonnes.

The port’s container volumes reached 1,035,189 TEUs, up from 853,238 during the same period in 2005, which represents a 21 percent increase. The increase is primarily attributed to a redirection of cargo to the Port of Vancouver from the Fraser River. “With the busiest season still ahead of us, we expect to easily pass the two million TEU mark by the end of the year,” predicts Badger.

Inbound breakbulk steel imports are also up 17 percent due to continued strong demand from the construction and oil and gas industries in western Canada.

Early season results for cruise passengers passing through the Port are down 11 percent. “While the Alaska market continues to grow, we’re still experiencing some loss in business to Seattle,” noted Badger.

After paying high commodity prices last year, coal and potash buyers have been delaying their 2006 purchases to work down their inventories and take a tougher stance in their contract negotiations, he said.

This and other market factors resulted in potash falling sharply, down 60 percent to 1.3 million tonnes, compared to the record first half volumes seen in 2005. Coal volumes are at 11.6 million tonnes, down by 10 per cent, potentially due to reported production concerns.

West coast ports handle nearly half of the Canadian commodities forecast, dominated by coal, grains and forest products. In comparison, the eastbound system handles 24.5 percent of the region’s commodities, also dominated by forest products.

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