Port of Vancouver posts 6% growth for 2023 despite longshoremen strike

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Cargo volumes through the Port of Vancouver increased by 6% overall in 2023, although statistics reveal that was largely supported by growth in bulk and containerized exports, auto imports, and cruise activity, while container imports softened in line with trends seen across the West Coast.

Terminal operators and supply chain partners moved a record 150.4 million metric tonnes (MMT) of trade at the facility last year, according to numbers released Friday by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. In fact, almost as much cargo moved through the Port of Vancouver in 2023 as moved through Canada’s next five largest ports combined, which are: Montreal, Prince Rupert, Halifax, Saint John, and Quebec.

The maritime cargo sector last year was affected by a number of global and domestic challenges, including a cooling global economy, geo-political issues such as disruptions to the Panama Canal and Red Sea trade routes, and a strike that affected container, bulk, breakbulk, and auto terminals at Port of Vancouver, port officials said. The recovery from July’s 13-day strike by B.C. longshore workers—which directly impacted operations throughout the port aside from a few areas including cruise and bulk grain—was both steady and challenging, with fluidity largely restored in the fall, according to Peter Xotta, president and CEO of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the federal agency mandated with enabling Canadian trade through the Port of Vancouver, while protecting the environment and considering local communities.  

“We know reliable access to international markets is vital for Canadian exports and Canadian businesses—supporting jobs, investment and economic activity from coast to coast. I want to acknowledge the resilience of Port of Vancouver terminal operators and supply chain partners, as they moved record volumes of trade in 2023 against a challenging backdrop to support Canadians and their jobs and businesses,” Xotta said.

Container volumes at the port were down 12% year-over-year, in line with trends seen across North America’s West Coast, as a cooling global economy and overstocked retailer inventories impacted imports (laden inbound containers were down 13%), the port said. Containerized exports (laden outbound) continued to recover from pandemic-era disruptions and were up 7% in 2023, as Canadian businesses used the increased availability of empty containers to deliver goods to markets across the globe. 

“While there was a softening of container volumes moving through the Port of Vancouver in 2023, Canada’s container sector remains on a long-term growth trajectory and we saw encouraging signs of recovery in Q4 as year-over-year volumes started to grow,” Xotta said. “We continue to partner with industry and government to ensure the port has the capacity needed to support Canada’s long-term trade needs, including expanding terminal capacity and investing in digital tools, collaboration and data sharing to ensure existing infrastructure is used to its maximum potential.”




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