Given the number of unknowns faced by the global economy, any predictions as to what lies ahead for 2013 are likely to be about as accurate as reading the entrails of crows. Uncertainty regarding the economic strength of the European Union, the depth of a Chinese slowdown and, as I write this, growing violence in the Middle East add up to a pretty turbulent picture for the planet. Indeed, the only thing that can be said for certain is that the global picture is, well, uncertain — and less able to absorb any shocks that could come in the form of natural or man-made disasters.
As Canada’s major international trade-enabling facilities, Canadian Port Authorities (CPAs) will likewise face uncertainty in 2013. Growing cargo throughput and aging infrastructure are placing financial pressures on CPAs to expand and rehabilitate existing facilities. Climate change may be to blame for declining water levels on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence, which in turn limits the cargo carrying capacity of ships serving these waters. And all ports are faced with the challenge of more extreme weather events.
Yet there is a fair amount of light on the horizon. The Canadian government’s myriad free trade negotiations with partners such as the European Union, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, along with transportation improvements in the form of the Panama Canal expansion, may offset trade declines in Canadian ports. And CPAs are well positioned to serve as gateways for the export of Canada’s valued natural resources — a market that will continue to expand overall, despite short-term fluctuations in value.