By Mark Edward Nero
Overall volume at the Port of Vancouver, British Columbia, dipped slightly to 136 million tons of cargo in 2016, down 1.8 percent from 2015, per newly released data.
However, sectors experiencing declines were offset by others that hit new records, including the bulk grain sector, the port said Feb. 28.
“One of our biggest strengths has been, and continues to be, the port’s ability to accommodate the most diversified range of cargo of any port in North America,” Port of Vancouver President and CEO Robin Silvester said in a statement. “Since 2013, the Port of Vancouver has experienced its fourth consecutive year of traffic volumes over 135 million tons, despite global economic downturns.”
2016 marked the Port of Vancouver’s third consecutive year of record volumes in bulk grain and its fifth year of an upward trend. Bulk grain export volumes through the port increased 1.3 percent from 2015, to reach 21.8 million metric tons in 2016.
Record bulk grain exports were driven by higher volumes of canola and specialty crop exports, which are up about 19 percent and nearly 18 percent, respectively. The growth was offset, however, by a 16.4 percent weather-related decrease in wheat exports.
Port data also show that containerized exports rose by 3.3 percent due to growth in woodpulp, grain and food and agri-product shipments. But that increase was offset by a 2.4 percent decline in loaded import containers, partly due, Vancouver says, to the return of some traffic to U.S. West Coast ports after their 2015 labor dispute. This led to a flat result in overall laden container volumes for 2016.
The weak Canadian dollar and a slowdown in industry investment and development activity in western Canada showed in a 17.2 percent decline in metal and project cargo imports in 2016, while a 22 percent drop in breakbulk lumber and wood pulp also contributed to a decline in overall import and export breakbulk volumes, according to port data.
Additionally, overall coal volumes were down by 6.1 percent in 2016, due to a 28.2 per cent decrease in thermal coal exports.
The port’s cruise industry experienced stable growth in 2016, as the port welcomed 228 cruise ships and 826,820 passengers compared to 805,400 passengers in 2015, an increase of three percent.