Overall cargo throughput at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority declined 11 percent in the first half of 2022.
The drop from 76.4 million metric tonnes (MMT) to 68.3 million compared to the same period last year, reflects impacts of a poor Canadian grain harvest, congestion caused by 2021 flooding in B.C., and global and national supply-chain challenges, the port authority said.
While Canadian consumer demand for containerized goods remains high, container volumes were down by seven percent at mid-year, reflecting impacts from supply-chain disruption related to 2021 flooding in B.C. coming into the year, as well as challenges caused by at-capacity warehouses at inland terminals such as Toronto, which have affected trade through Vancouver.
Although this sector continues to face some near-term supply-chain challenges, Canada’s west coast container trade remains on a long-term growth trajectory, averaging five percent growth annually for the past decade, and west coast terminals are projected to reach capacity by the mid- to late-2020s.
“As global ports continue to face an array of supply-chain challenges, Vancouver’s port community has met the complex and layered challenges of early 2022 with resourcefulness and tenacity,” said Robin Silvester, president and CEO of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.
“I’d like to recognize and thank everyone across Canada’s largest port and the supply-chain for their exceptional efforts this year, as we work together to overcome challenges and drive this port’s resiliency and success for the long term.”
In recent years, the port’s grain sector, including both bulk and containerized grain, has been growing, achieving new records for total grain shipped every year from 2013 to 2020. For the first half of 2022, however, overall grain volumes decreased by 60 percent over the same period last year due to the poor Canadian grain harvest in 2021, plus a sell-off of grain stores last year in response to high grain prices. Similarly, canola oil decreased by 62 percent through mid-year, due to the low-yield harvest.
“Grain has been a major growth story for this port for nearly a decade, and while we’ve been seeing impacts of the 2021 harvest this year, we expect to see volumes returning as of this fall, based on industry projections of a stronger 2022 harvest,” Silvester said.
In the first half of the year, sulphur increased by 20 percent due to higher overseas demand. With the rebound of travel, aviation and jet fuel increased by 179 percent. Potash increased by one percent as a result of increased global demand amidst restricted market access to Russian and Belarussian potash.
Also, through mid-year, disrupted global semiconductor production and supply chains, coupled with softening demand, contributed to a 20 percent decline in auto volumes.
The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project, a proposed marine container terminal in Delta, is in the final stages of a federal environmental assessment process. If approved, the terminal will increase container terminal capacity by more than 30 percent on Canada’s west coast.
“If we consider our short- and long-term challenges at Canada’s largest port, the solutions are in fact the same,” Silvester said. “To provide resiliency in the face of supply-chain disruptions and to be able to support long-term growth from a position of strength, we need to continue building capacity, efficiency and resiliency throughout the port and its supply chains. Roberts Bank Terminal 2 is an essential part of that.”