By Leo Quigley, AJOTWhile most ports on North America’s West Coast are reporting disappointing numbers for the first half of the year, the Port of Prince Rupert told AJOT that cargo volumes through the port rebounded in the second quarter of 2009 to reach the half year mark equal to the first six months of 2008.
All port terminals moved a combined 5.42 million metric tons to June 30, 2009, compared to 5.44 million tons during the first half of 2008. Tonnage throughput for the first quarter 2009 was 2.38 million, down 24.5% to the 3.07 million tons handled in the first quarter 2008.
Barry Bartlett, spokesman for the port, said containers and grain led the surge in traffic and log exports and chemicals also experienced significant growth. However, coal volumes continued a negative trend, although coking coal, petroleum coke and wood pellets showed some positive gains.
Fairview Container Terminal, which opened last year, handled 97,616 TEUs during the first six months of 2009, a 124% increase over the 43,555 TEUs that moved through the terminal during the same period in 2008. Second quarter 2009 traffic was up 151%, to 56,573 TEUs compared to 22,515 TEUs for April-June in 2008.
The increase results largely from the fact that the port is now being serviced by two vessels a week, the majority of which are owned by Hanjin Shipping.
Don Krusel, President and CEO said in the report: “The Prince Rupert Port Authority and our partners greatly appreciate the growing confidence of shippers demonstrated by their increasing utilization of the Prince Rupert Gateway. Our commitment is to continue to improve upon the reliability and speed of our integrated sea, terminal and rail services that have attracted our customers here.”
The Prince Rupert Gateway also continued to experience strong backhaul/export traffic, accounting for 43,556 TEUs in 2009 compared to 20,024 TEUs in 2008.
COSCO Container Lines, who was the first to support the concept of a container terminal on the North Coast of BC, recently increased its Prince Rupert service to two weekly calls connecting the Canadian port to Yokohama in Japan. The service includes calls in Hong Kong, South China, East China and North China.
Tim Marsh, VP sales COSCO-USA, believes that the Prince Rupert service, particularly because of the rail connections, has been a valuable contributor to the overall suite of box services provided by COSCO. “High speed rail is the way to go… we have great connections to the US Midwest because of Prince Rupert,” Marsh told the AJOT.
In line with record export sales by the Canadian Wheat Board this year, the port’s only grain terminal, Prince Rupert Grain, handled 2.9 million tons in the first half of 2009, a 32.8% increase over the same period in 2008. Wheat was the largest contributor, jumping from 1.6 to 2.7 million tons, followed by canola, which was up 31.7%. However, barley was down 88.1% to 52,225 tons. The high wheat throughput results from a bumper 2008 crop year and strong global demand. Western Canadian farmers produced 36.7 million tons in 2008, compared to the five-year average of 33.9 million tons.
However, harvesting will soon begin on the Canadian Prairies and Jeff Burghardt, President of Prince Rupert Grain, said in the report: “There is great concern about the size and quality of this year’s overall crop due to the lack of adequate moisture throughout the growing season.
”There is strong potential for throughput levels to be lower this coming fall compared to levels that Prince Rupert Grain attained in recent years.”
Ridley Terminals Inc.’s, Prince Rupert’s massive coal terminal, reported that second quarter 2009 throughput was slightly higher than the first quarter, but volumes for the first six