Port of Vancouver posts grain record halfway through 2020

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

VANCOUVER – From January 1 to June 30, 2020, overall cargo through the Port of Vancouver decreased by 1.1 percent from 72.4 to 71.7 million metric tonnes (MMT) over the same time last year. However, despite an overall decrease in cargo moving through the port, new mid-year records were set for bulk and containerized grain, as well as total foreign tonnage and foreign exports.

“We are experiencing unprecedented times in Canada and across the globe as we grapple with a pandemic that is causing economic impacts, making short term predictions difficult,” said Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

“Despite these challenges, mid-year cargo volumes through the Port of Vancouver remained stable and Canada’s trade has continued to flow, connecting Canadians and Canadian businesses to essential goods and international markets. This resiliency is a testament to the importance of diverse trading partners, foreign markets, and a range of cargo moving through the port.”

Strong global demand for Canadian grain resulted in a new mid-year record of 16.3 MMT for both bulk and containerized grain, an increase of 10.4 percent or 1.5 MMT compared to mid-year grain records from the previous year. Total foreign tonnage and foreign exports resulted in mid-year records of 57.7 and 49.7 MMT, up 1.2 percent and 2.1 percent respectively, due to strong increases in grain, petroleum, chemicals and canola oil volumes.

Increases in wheat, up 7.5 percent, canola, up 25.6 percent, and specialty crops, up 10.0 percent, contributed to this new record. In fertilizers, potash exports decreased by 6.7 percent from last year’s record and sulphur increased by 5.7 percent.

Between January 1 and June 30, 2020, several sectors experienced declines as a result of weather conditions, trade challenges, cancelled sailings, railroad blockades and the global Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the sectors impacted were autos, down 34.1 percent, breakbulk, down 17.1 percent, and containers, down 7.7 percent from mid-year 2019 to 1.6 million TEUs.

“As we’ve seen from previous economic downturns, trade is generally well-positioned to rebound strongly,” said Silvester. “In container trade, we are already seeing monthly volumes recover when compared to the same month in 2019, and the demand for goods shipped in containers continues to be projected to grow going forward. A key part of our role as a Canada Port Authority is to advance the critical infrastructure required to accommodate this growth through the port.”

Along with industry and government partners across the Lower Mainland, the port authority is leading the development of more than $1 billion worth of infrastructure projects.

To accommodate growing trade in containers, the port authority is currently leading two container terminal projects and has partnered with government and industry to invest in a number of road, rail and other infrastructure projects.

Once completed, the Centerm Expansion Project will be able to accommodate a 65 percent increase in container traffic by having added only 15 percent more land, along with a terminal reconfiguration.

The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project is a proposed new terminal which, if approved, would add nearly 50 percent more container capacity to the Port of Vancouver.