BC slowly opens roads, transport disruptions continue

by Emily Atkins

The B.C. government announced the reopening of Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Hope on December 2, signalling a gradual improvement in travel conditions in the province after almost two weeks of flooding and landslides disrupted road and rail connections throughout the Lower Mainland.

However, the situation remains tricky for many businesses, including those using rail services to and from the Port of Vancouver.

CP and CN eastbound and westbound trains are operating on CP’s mainline between Vancouver and Kamloops. CN says its engineering teams continue to make progress on repairs to their mainline between Kamloops and Boston Bar. CN anticipates restoration of its rail line late on Friday, December 3.

CP continues to provide service to the Port of Vancouver, but is not loading export cars in Montreal, and is also not accepting reefers.

Canfor shutdown

The lack of reliable transportation has caused Canfor Pulp Products Inc. to temporarily reduce production at two plants, Northwood Pulp and Taylor Pulp. The company said in a statement that pulp shipments have declined as a result of the recent weather-related transportation disruptions, and pulp mill inventories are nearing capacity. Production will be curtailed for a minimum of two weeks for production at Northwood Pulp, and for a minimum of four weeks at Taylor Pulp.

“As a result of the extreme rainfall and flooding that BC has been experiencing in recent weeks, the rail and highway networks have been substantially impacted. Our employees have worked very hard to mitigate the impacts of the supply chain challenges and it has now become critical to reduce production to manage inventory levels and ensure employee safety until the transportation network returns to more normal operations,” said Canfor Pulp’s CEO, Don Kayne.

The Port of Vancouver continues to operate with limited capacity. In its operational update for December 2, it noted that demand for ship anchorages continues to exceed availability.

As a result of the slowed train service, the number of import rail cars continues to climb, especially for CN. At the Deltaport terminal there more than 110,000 feet of import containers waiting to move, as opposed to the planned of less than 20,000. CP’s numbers have improved from a high of 50,000 feet waiting to move on November 23, but it also remains above its plan.

A plan to rapidly develop a container storage yard is underway, with an undeveloped 40-acre parcel land within the Fraser Richmond Industrial Lands being prepared for the handling and storage of empty containers. The federal government has agreed to provide up to $4.1 million to help with the project.