Canada’s Vancouver Fraser Port Authority reported mid-year 2020 results and while impacted like all ports by COVID-19, Vancouver also reported mid-year records. The port also sees increasing trade and a rebound in demand.
While total cargo through the port decreased just over one percent in the first half of 2020 compared to 2020, there was strong demand for bulk and containerized grain, as well as total foreign tonnage and foreign exports. The biggest gain, however, was crude oil volumes which were up 150 percent in the first half of the year due to fluctations at the terminal and volumes in local regional pipelines.
“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 more than 10 percent. Total foreign tonnage and foreign exports also record mid-year records, due to strong increases in grain, petroleum, chemicals, and canola oil volumes. The volume in wheat was up seven and a half percent, while canola was up over 25 percent, and specialty crops increased 10 percent.
The port however reported declines in some segments of its operations citing weather conditions as well as trade challenges, canceled sailings, railroad blockades, and the global COVID-19 pandemic. The sectors the felt the strongest declines in the first half of 2020 included autos which were down a third as well as a 17 decline in breakbulk volumes. Container traffic was down by nearly eight percent. The closing of Canada ports to cruise ships also meant that the normally busy summer cruise season to Alaska was canceled.
“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, the port authority is leading the development of more than C$1 billion worth of infrastructure projects designed to strengthen its competitiveness as a West Coast trade hub. To accommodate growing trade in containers, the port authority is currently leading two container terminal projects and has partnered with the government and industry to invest in several road, rail, and other infrastructure projects. Once completed, the Centerm Expansion Project will be able to accommodate a 65 percent increase in container traffic, and a proposed new terminal if approved would increase container capacity by 50 percent at the Roberts Bank Terminal 2.
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