Canada National and Canadian Pacific railways’ new and expanded transload centers for stuffing lumber, logs and other products into containers bound for Asia will help the ports at Vancouver and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, keep trade balanced.
Asia’s hunger for Canadian lumber has allowed the ports to buck a decades-long trend of importing far more than they exporting.
“We have become neatly balanced as a port on the West Coast, with about 0.8 percent to 0.9 percent of full boxes going out for every one full box coming in, as forest products and grain now go out in containers,” said Robin Silvester, CEO of Port Metro Vancouver’s public authority.
By the Numbers: Containerized Ocean Trade - Port of Vancouver, British Columbia
He said the balanced import-export ratio makes the port attractive to shipping lines, especially since the port’s export of lumber to China is growing. Lumber companies “are intending further investments into putting lumber into containers for the Port of Vancouver,” Silvester said.
Most recently, Canadian National and China’s CNBM Forest Products Trading agreed to use a new CN facility in Vancouver, B.C., to transload Canadian lumber into China-bound containers starting this fall.
At Port Metro Vancouver, lumber exports are up 48.1 percent for the first half of this year, to 2.3 million metric tons, to serve China’s new interest in home building with lumber. There is also a small resurgence in Japan’s traditional substantial use of Canadian lumber, received in break-bulk vessels.
The story is similar at Prince Rupert. Aside from strong exports of lumber and logs, demand for metallurgical and thermal coal for steel plants and power plants is robust. Exports of grain to China also remain strong although they are off from a record year in 2010.
For the first seven months of this year, container traffic was up 16.5 percent, while inbound container volume was flat and outbound traffic was up 82.3 percent.
Port Metro Vancouver handled 58.7 million metric tons of cargo in the first half this year, against 10.8 million for Prince Rupert. Overall Vancouver tonnage grew only 0.8 percent but the chief export areas, dry bulk (34.4 million tons) and containerized cargo (10.6 million) were up 5.3 percent and 5.6 percent
Loaded outbound TEUs grew 12.2 percent; empty outbound TEUs fell 16.4 percent.