Vancouver container traffic up 16%

VANCOUVER (Feb. 8) — In the face of an uncertain trade environment brought on by Asia’s economic woes and a drop in bulk commodity prices, Port Vancouver handled 72 million tons of cargo in 1998, down 2% from the previous year when a record-breaking 73.5 million tons were processed.

The number of TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) handled was up 16% in 1998, topping 840,000.

The container numbers signal success in Vancouver’s ability to compete with other ports in the Pacific Northwest, said port chair Carole Taylor. She added that Vancouver had the greatest percentage increase in foreign laden containers among Pacific Northwest ports.

Meanwhile, containerized import cargo through the port leaped 27% and laden export container volumes rose 9% over last year’s numbers. Taylor attibuted the increases to strong Canadian consumer demand for Asian imports and a low Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar.

However, commodity shipments tailed off badly with the sliding offshore markets. Volumes were down 30% over last year (1.5 million tons handled). Conversely, Woodpulp traffic rose 10% over last year to 3 million tonnes in part because of a favourable Canadian currency.

On the liquid and dry bulk side, chemical volumes jumped by 9% to 2.2 million tonnes compared to 1997, while petroleum products rose 16% to 3.8 million ton. Dry bulk volumes saw potash reduced by 20% to 3.4 million tonnes, compared to 1997, largely due to the diversion of potash to a new terminal in Portland, Ore. Grain exports declined 11% to 11.1 million tonnes from 1997 due to a drop in grain prices, which resulted in lower grain sales. Coal and sulphur were relatively stable compared to 1997 figures. Coal slipped slightly by 1% to 28.2 million tons and sulphur was off 5% to 5.2 million tons. Phosphate rock tonnage increased 6% to 1.1 million tons over 1997 figures.

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