Container volume increased to 343,366 20-foot equivalent units in 2010, a 29.5 percent increase over 2009, at the three-year-old container port of Prince Rupert in remote northern British Columbia. Executives say they expect a similar spurt in 2011.
Coal in bulk led the port's overall cargo-handling to a record 16,424,512 metric tons in 2010, the Prince Rupert Port Authority reported.
The container part of the port, which has completed three full years of operation, is "operating at about 50 per cent of capacity right now,” Shaun Stevenson, vice-president of the Prince Rupert Port Authority, said. “We should grow strongly again in 2011 and approach capacity of more than 700,000 TEUs in perhaps the next two or three years."
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The COSCO Alliance of Asian shipping lines serves Fairview Terminal, which in turn serves the U.S. Midwest and Central Canada via Canadian National Railway.
Maynard Angus, port spokesman, and Stevenson, said in interviews that the Alliance has plenty of room to increase its tonnage and that discussions are taking place currently with other shipping lines and shippers to use Prince Rupert.
With recovery occurring in trans-Pacific trade and with the U.S. economy showing recovery, Stevenson said, "Prince Rupert could accommodate another two vessel services … (and) we are being considered by some of them."
Angus said if present growth continues, Prince Rupert in the near term will reach its present capacity.
Loaded import containers from Asia, particularly China were up 24.2 percent over 2009 to 193,507, and export containers, at 149,859, were up 37 percent over the previous year.
A highlight on the export side, Stevenson said, was "the growth in lumber and other forest products from Western Canada," shipped in containers.
"We are seeing Asia and particularly China as an increasingly significant market for B.C. lumber," he said. Canadian producers are seeking to diversify their lumber exports in the light of lower demand and more lumber trade disputes with the main market, the United States. Increased Chinese demand for coal, on the bulk side, was another key driver of growth at Prince Rupert, he said.
On the export side, much more room remains. In 2010 there were 63,111 TEUs loaded, a huge 62.8 percent increase over 2009, but there still remained 86,748 empties.
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