2008 end-of-year cargo statistics released by Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) illustrate that while unprecedented worldwide economic difficulties have had a significant effect on global trade, the Port has demonstrated stability and resiliency during this period.

While overall tonnage of 114,559,973 metric tons declined 10% compared to 2007, the auto and container sectors were stable, in contrast to other West Coast ports. Commodities such as coal, potash and petroleum products experienced moderate increases. In contrast, breakbulk, mineral and forest product volumes were significantly lower.

“Our Port’s statistics clearly reflect the interconnectedness of global trade,” said Captain Gordon Houston, President and CEO, Port Metro Vancouver.

“We are certainly not immune to the effects of current economic conditions, but at the same time a number of factors, such as our high degree of diversification and focus on the Canadian market, have allowed Port volumes to remain relatively stable compared to many of the Port’s competitors.”

Bright spots included coal volumes that increased by three percent to 25,930,257 tons in a volatile market. The growing thermal coal market offset declines in metallurgical coal volumes. Petroleum products increased by 14% to 7,274,857 tons. Among the products in that sector, crude oil exports experienced a modest increase of three percent, while gasoline surged by almost 50%. In sharp contrast to the declining trend in the overall global market for automobiles, auto imports remained steady at 456,442 vehicles.

Port Metro Vancouver remained the leader in container traffic among Pacific Northwest ports with a 38% market share. Overall container statistics for the Port were largely unchanged from the previous year, at 2,492,107 TEU (twenty-foot-equivalent unit). The ongoing downturn in the economy and erosion of consumer confidence led to a decline in container imports in the latter part of the year, while wavering demand and letters of credit issues had an effect on containerized exports of forest products and specialty crops.

Market conditions had varying effects on grain moving thought the Port, which at 13,580,273 tons declined 7%. High prices early in the year led to a depletion of stockpiles. A late harvest combined with lower prices late in the year resulted in a 12% decline in wheat exports, while letters of credit issues negatively affected specialty crops such as pulses, corn, oats and rye.

Conversely, canola increased 16% in response to strong market demand.

Results in the fertilizer sector were mixed. The sulphur market experienced radical changes in price, demand and supply, with exports ending the year down by 11%. Demand for potash, which had a very strong year until December, began to lower as producers controlled supply to maintain prices, but finished the year in positive territory at 6,451,228 tons.

A substantial decline in metals and minerals was largely attributable to weakness in the market for aggregates brought on by the slowdown in the construction industry.

Breakbulk volumes experienced the most significant decline, at 25%, due in large part to challenges related to the forestry sector.

The cruise sector remained stable. A decline from 2007 was essentially due to a vessel re-deployment, and both sailings and revenue passenger numbers reverted to the trend line from previous years.

Port Metro Vancouver: 2008 End-of-Year Stats
 (in metric tons except Cruise category)————————————————————————————————————-
Cargo Totals                        2008              2007                Change (%)————————————————————————————————————-
Total Tonnage                114,559,973       127,844,035          -10%————————————————————————————————————-
CARGO TYPE————————————————————————————————————-
Autos (units)