VanPort container traffic reaches record in 05; but not at pace with US ports

VANCOUVER — Trade through the Port of Vancouver grew four percent to 76.3 million tonnes in 2005 with exports of petroleum products and canola showing marked increases of 27 percent and 17 percent respectively.

Container traffic attaining a new record of 1.77 million TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units). Increases in trade activity and demand from China, Asian economies and the U.S. indicate the critical need to expand capacity and implement supply chain efficiencies to accommodate future growth, the port authority stated in a press release.

“We will continue to lead the expansion of the Pacific Gateway through terminal expansion projects and by driving action across the nation’s transportation sector to improve efficiencies,” said Captain Gordon Houston, president and CEO of the Vancouver Port Authority. “Growing demand provides significant opportunities to strengthen the Canadian economy and employment, yet competing ports in the U.S. are expanding at a fast pace.”

VanPort’s bulk trade grew substantially, but
Lower Mainland lost positioning to U.S.

Major U.S. west coast ports recorded double-digit increases at the end of November 2005: Seattle 18 percent, Long Beach 18 percent, Tacoma 16 percent, and Oakland 13 percent. “We must maintain our competitive position through improvements and capitalize on these opportunities, otherwise economic benefits will be lost,” said Houston.

The Vancouver Port has struggled with several disruptions, including a six-week strike by 1,200 owner-operators last summer. The strike, which reportedly caused millions is losses, came to an end only after the Vancouver Port Authority required fleets that haul freight in and out of the port to acquire an interim licence, which also forced carriers to accept terms laid out by an independent operator. The licence provision was later extended indefinitely by government.

The port has also endured a large CN Rail strike and a work stoppage by tug and barge operators in the last few years.

Notable 2005 year-end statistics for VanPort include:

Break bulk shipments increased by two percent with steel imports offsetting reductions in the export of forest products.

Forest product exports decreased five percent to 7.8 million tonnes. It still represent 10 percent of the port’s exports. Lumber shipments, instead decreased 12 percent to 2.0 million tonnes.

Wood pulp exports decreased four per cent to 4.2 million tonnes due to high production costs and lower cost wood pulp supplied by competing economies Brazil, Russia, China and Eastern Europe.

However, total bulk shipments — which represent 77 percent of the port’s traffic — increased by four per cent to 58.6 million tonnes. Total liquid bulk shipments increased nine percent to 7.6 million tonnes including a substantial increase of 27 percent in petroleum product exports.

“Forecasts indicate a 25 percent increase in bulk cargo shipments and a 300 percent increase in container volumes over the next 15 years,” said George Adams, chairman of the VPA. “To satisfy demand and handle ever-increasing growth through the port, we must work together with our partners in trade and transportation to quickly and effectively improve capacity and supply chain efficiencies.”

This reflects increased exports to the U.S. with Canada taking over from Saudi Arabia and Mexico as the U.S.’s number one supplier of crude oil.

Coal exports increased by two percent to 25.2 million tonnes. Coal is still the port’s largest export commodity in terms of volume. Grain exports, overall, decreased two percent to 8.5 million tones largely due to a six percent decrease as a result of wet harvests.

Potash exports decreased slightly by 0.4 percent to 5.9 million tonnes as some Saskatchewan producers diverted potash to Portland due “to capacity and rail issues at the Port of Vancouver.”

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