Inside Logistics

West Coast congestion impacting Canadian trade, says association

February 4, 2015

TORONTO, Ont.–In its bulletin posted February 3, CIFFA, the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association, noted that it had written, on behalf of its members, an open letter to ocean carriers serving West Coast ports outlining increasing concerns arising from port congestion.

Both the Shipping Federation of Canada and the B.C. Chamber of Shipping on behalf of their respective members replied “with reasoned and informative responses”, the association said.

According to CIFFA, the letters outline steps being taken by the ocean carriers to alleviate some of the congestion issues and indicate that the situation is being taken seriously. Nonetheless, there is little that carriers can do that will fix the problems in the short term. As the Shipping Federation stated in their response “The fact of the matter is that we are all hostages of the labour situation that continues to unfold on the US West Coast, and any meaningful improvements to the challenges we face will be inextricably linked to the resolution of that situation.”

The B.C. Chamber added, “The reality is that all ocean carriers are constantly seeking to identify solutions but these are complex logistical problems that defy simplistic answers… everyone is a loser until common sense prevails and U.S. West Coast ports return to some semblance of normality.”

Carriers must continue to communicate schedule changes and anticipated delays to booking agents as soon as information is available so that informed decisions can be taken before cargo is loaded on a vessel and further action becomes impossible. We understand the situation is chaotic, it is not improving and everyone must expect delays, CIFFA said.

CIFFA’s letter and both responses are posted on the CIFFA website, and CIFFA is encouraging its members to share this information with customers.

This is not simply a freight forwarder or ocean carrier issue. US West Coast labour issues are impacting all stakeholders across the supply chain, including Canadian importers and exporters. Due to current market conditions, all stakeholders must expect “major delays in some cases that are beyond anyone’s control”.  We thank both the B.C. Chamber of Shipping and the Shipping Federation for their consideration and quick reply, said CIFFA.