Despite the unprecedented global challenges of COVID-19, the leading ports on Canada’s West Coast are still enjoying robust trade with Asia. Vancouver and Prince Rupert even broke cargo records in 2020, with container trends continuing to show strength in 2021. And the Port of Nanaimo, in partnership with DP World, is expanding a major regional, shortsea project with a container-on-barge service.

Robert’s Bank area of the Port of Vancouver where a major project is encountering delays.
Robert’s Bank area of the Port of Vancouver where a major project is encountering delays.

Port of Vancouver

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority reports that total cargo volume through Canada’s largest port in 2020 increased by 1% from 144.2 to 145.5 million metric tons over the same period in 2019, with new annual records set for grain, potash, and containers.

China continues to be the port’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade climbing 18% in 2020. China alone accounted for 34.9 million tons of exported and imported cargo. Japan and South Korea rank second and third.

“During what was most definitely a year that will be in the history books amid a myriad of challenges and global economic uncertainty, the value and resiliency of Canada’s largest port has certainly been showcased,” said Robin Silvester, President and CEO of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

For the fifth year in a row, global demand for Canadian grain resulted in a new annual record of 35.1 million tons of grain shipped both in bulk ships and containers, an increase of fully 24% compared to the previous year. Increases in wheat, up 25%, canola, up 45%, and specialty crops, up 12%, contributed to the record.

Container traffic attained a record 3.5 million TEUs, an increase of 2% compared to the previous year.

The port authority recently updated its container forecasts, and indeed the year-to-date figures to end-February appeared to justify the optimism, with the two-month total at 604,863 TEUS – up an impressive 21%.

In response to rising international trade demand, the port authority is continuing to advance the critical infrastructure required to accommodate this growth. Working 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, including two container terminal projects and a number of road and rail infrastructure projects.

However, construction of the port’s proposed multi-billion Terminal 2 container terminal project on Robert’s Bank has run into delays in face of mounting opposition from environmental groups and the City of Delta as well as opposition from Global Container Terminals (GCT). The latter’s Deltaport operation would simply be enlarged whereas the RBT2 project would require the conversion of some 400 acres of intertidal and subtidal habitat to build a new three-berth terminal, expand an existing causeway and a tug basin.

Significantly enough, the Port of Vancouver is currently working on a response slated for this summer to a federal environmental review panel report that concluded the…

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