The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority on February 28 released the 2018 year-end statistics for cargo through the Port of Vancouver. Overall cargo volume through Canada’s largest port reached a record high of 147 million tonnes, up 3.5 per cent from 2017.

One of the port’s biggest strengths continues to be the ability to accommodate the most diversified range of cargo of any port in North America. Sectors that experienced strong growth last year include containers, potash, canola products and barley, all of which hit new records in 2018.

In 2018, container volumes, measured in 20-foot equivalents or TEUs, increased by 4.4 per cent to a record 3.4 million TEUs. In Vancouver, containers arrive filled with appliances, clothing and other consumer products as well as auto parts and manufactured goods from Asia. They leave loaded with Canadian grain, lumber and food products, among other goods.

For Canadian businesses large and small, container trade through the Port of Vancouver is essential to gaining access to international markets. However, forecasts show that Canadian west coast container ports will be full by as early as the mid-2020s and therefore unable to accommodate growing trade. In response, the port authority is working to create new terminal capacity.

“Canada’s international trade is growing. The port authority and all those who make up the Port of Vancouver are taking steps to ensure the port will be ready to handle the anticipated increase in cargo through Canada’s west coast,” said Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the federal agency responsible for overseeing the Port of Vancouver. “This includes partnering with terminal operators to expand and improve operations in preparation to meet the expected increased demand.”

Even with the additional capacity provided by such improvements, forecasts from independent experts show it won’t be enough to manage Canada’s future trade demand. This highlights the need for the port authority’s proposed new container terminal at Roberts Bank.

The proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project, which is currently undergoing a review by an independent panel appointed by the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, would help realize our nation’s trade potential by providing the marine terminal capacity needed to meet the forecasted demand for trade of goods in containers, serving Canadians well into the future.

In other sectors, a bumper harvest in Canada was met with strong global demand for Canadian grain, special crops and other agriculture products, resulting in steady exports through the Port of Vancouver. Combined, dry bulk and containerized grain hit record levels of 27.4 million metric tonnes, with canola and barley each reaching new records for 2018. In fertilizers, potash exports increased 27.6 per cent to record volumes.

Cargo in the breakbulk sector, including domestic tonnage, was up 11.7 per cent over 2017 due to strong imports of steel products and increased movement of domestic logs along the Fraser River.

The cruise industry in Vancouver also experienced stable growth as demand for cruises to Alaska continues to increase. In 2018, there was a 5.5 per cent increase in passenger numbers to the Port of Vancouver.

Auto sector volumes through the port were steady in 2018, with a one per cent decrease compared to 2017.

“Last year’s success is due to port terminals, tenants, railways, marine shippers, truckers, and our government and other partners, all of whom are continuing to invest in response to growing trade,” continued Silvester. “I’d like to thank all of our port stakeholders for their commitment to contribute to a more fluid and efficient supply chain and increased capacity at Canada’s largest port.”