The Association of Canadian Port Authorities is warning Canadian policymakers that inadequate development of port infrastructure could hinder the country from taking full advantage of its growing international trade.
Comments in a column written by ACPA President Wendy Zatylny, contributed to The Globe and Mail, touched on the country’s recent expansion of trade and the local ports’ inability capitalize on the opportunities in front of them. Canada recently signed a trade agreement with the European Union that could see $17 trillion in activity, Zatylny said.
"We will only be able to capitalize on this expanded market and increase our competitiveness through strengthened port facilities and improved supply chain efficiencies," Zatylny wrote. "With the expansion of trade comes the necessity for the expansion of port infrastructure."
Since 2006, Canada has announced new trade agreements with nine different countries, and it is currently negotiating more, Zatylny said.
Authorities from the 18 different member ports and several other organizations are gathered in Belledune, New Brunswick, for a three-day conference aimed at mapping strategies for the future.
The ACPA represents the ports of Belledune, Halifax, Hamilton, Montreal, Nanaimo, Oshawa, Port Alberni, Port Metro Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Quebec, Saint John, St. John's, Saguenay, Sept-Iles, Toronto, Trois-Rivieres, Thunder Bay and Windsor. They combine to ship and receive about $162 billion in goods each year from trading partners in 160 countries. The ACPA ports handle about 60 percent of the country’s waterborne cargo.
Three of the country’s four major ports — Halifax, Vancouver, Montreal and Prince Rupert — have shown volume growth this year. Montreal throughput rose to 668,656 TEUs in the first half of 2014, 2.8 percent higher than the first half of 2013. Prince Rupert showed the biggest growth, with first-half volume totaling 281,074 TEUs, up 6.1 percent year-over-year.
Port Metro Vancouver, which has only reported volumes through May, also showed growth. The port moved 1,139,582 TEUs from January through May, 2.1 percent more than the same time period of 2013.
Halifax was the only major port to show a decline in volume. The port reported a throughput volume of 206,125 TEUs in the first half of 2014, 8.1 percent less than the first half of 2013.
It could take more than a year for the trade accord between Canada and the EU to be finalized, but ports are already bracing for changes.
Port of Halifax spokesman Lane Ferguson said the port is expecting a jump of 20 percent in cargo volume as a result of the trade agreement, as Halifax is the closest port to Europe and operates 17 trade lanes to European countries. By the end of the year, Halifax will have spent more than $100 million to modernize, including an expansion of the Halterm Container Terminal, installation of two super-post-Panamax container cranes and the expansion of the multipurpose Richmond Terminal.
Montreal’s expansion should be completed by the end of the year. The port will be able to handle 2.2 million TEUs annually, compared to its current annual capacity of 1.6 million TEUs. It also has compacted and repaved the yard of a former bulk terminal so it could be converted to handle future container growth. Montreal’s terminals are limited to handling ships of up to 6,000 TEUs.
“The time is now to pair Canada's 21st century trade agenda with 21st century transportation efficiency,” Zatylny said.