Vancouver congestion growing

Vancouver congestion growing

TORONTO -- Canadian shippers are calling on the government to help resolve growing congestion at the Port of Vancouver.

About 10,000 TEUs of containers were clogging the docks at four Vancouver terminals over the weekend, with another 200-300 TEUs arriving each day.

A bottleneck on Canadian Pacific Railway's single-track route through British Columbia has slowed the movement of trains into and out of Vancouver, compounding a growing nationwide shortage of intermodal rail cars that has failed to keep pace with soaring freight shipments.

The railroad reported little progress in getting more cars to Vancouver in a conference call Monday with terminal operators, ocean carriers and the Vancouver Port Authority,

The VPA earlier said it hoped the backlog would be cleared "in a few weeks."

Meanwhile, exporters and importers meeting here urged the government and railroads to work together on a long-term plan to help rail lines keep pace with surging traffic.

"We have some huge transportation infrastructure problems...which are becoming quite costly to our customers," said Bob Armstrong, president of the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters.

He urged new Canadian Transport Minister Tony Valeri to take the lead in resolving the Vancouver congestion, and to spur rail investment in rolling stock, tracks and other capital improvements.

Armstrong said shippers are reporting delays of seven to 21 days for containers moving from Vancouver to inland destinations including the U.S. Midwest.

Michael Broad, president of the Shipping Federation of Canada, which represents ocean carriers, said problems affecting North America generally include inadequate port infrastructure, ongoing port and terminal congestion and "lack of rail capacity. It's difficult getting containers out of ports now with the lack of railcars."

Valeri in a speech said that "rail lines are at capacity in certain regions of the country and nearing capacity in others." He supported incentives to spur private investment in railroads, especially intermodal services, but provided no details.

Bruce Burrows, an executive of the Railway Association of Canada, called for tax breaks for railways. Lines can write off capital investments over eight years in the U.S. but over 20 years in Canada, he said.