By Alex Binkley, A persistent pandemic, supply chain woes and devastating weather events left their marks on Canada’s Port Authorities in 2021 with eleven reporting increases in cargo tonnage, while six saw lower volumes than the year before. Port of Vancouver was on its way to a stellar performance increase at midyear, but then came ship backlogs compounded by heavy rains that wiped out rail lines and highways in British Columbia. The Port estimates it handled 145.8 million tonnes during 2021, about 1.7 million tonnes ahead of 2020. However, after achieving a record 76.4 million tonnes at midyear, traffic slowed in the second half as supply chain problems, waiting ships and the record rainfalls took their toll. If the port had been able to maintain its first half performance, it could have finished in the 153 million tonne range for the year. As it was, 2021 was its second best performance, after record volumes in 2018, when it handled 147.1 million tonnes. While the final details of the port’s 2021 performance will be announced later, the port’s strong showing was driven by a 6.3 per cent increase in exports, led by grain and grain products.
Montreal recorded its second consecutive drop in traffic handling just over 34 million tonnes after a decade of steady growth that peaked in 2019 at 40.6 million tonnes. Both dry and liquid bulk cargoes were off more than container shipments. Montreal Port Authority is pressing ahead with plans for building the Contrecœur container traffic to serve import and export customers including growing container movements on the Great Lakes.
Sept-Iles handled 32.1 million tonnes, down 3 per cent from 2020 but its second best result on record. The decline came after five successive years of growth. Lower iron ore shipments were the main reason due to equipment breakdowns and other incidents that affected some its producers. The port hopes to reach the 40 million tonne cargo mark this year.
Saint John recorded an 11 per cent increase to 28.8 million tonnes. A year over year increase in container traffic marked the fifth consecutive year of growth in that sector. The Port hopes that terminal modernization and beefed-up rail and shipping line service will enable it to better its results in the future. Right behind Saint John was the Port of Quebec that expects its 2021 tonnage to be in the 28.5 million tonne range, about 5.5 per cent higher than 2020. The Port showed it’s a viable link in a supply chain for agrifood, construction, and transportation companies.
Prince Rupert handled 25 million tonnes, down 23 per cent from 2020 due in a major drop in coal exports and lower grain shipments after prolonged drought slashed the grain harvest in Western Canada. The Port says new expedited rail services between Prince Rupert and eastern destinations offer an unparalleled means to transport cargo at record pace.
Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority (HOPA) recorded 11.2 million tonnes through Hamilton and Oshawa, up 9 per cent over 2020. Hamilton recorded 10.8 million tonnes surpassing 2020’s total by almost one million metric tonnes and climbing six per cent ahead of its 5-year average. Though Oshawa experienced a slight decrease from its record total in 2020, it did see increases in fertilizer and finished steel in 2021, and it finished just 3 per cent below its 5-year average.
Halifax reported 8.96 million tonnes up about 700,000 tonnes over 2020 with growth in both container and other shipments. To help build future container traffic, the Port will be filling in the basin between Piers A-1 and B at Ocean Terminals starting in May.
Thunder Bay finished at 8.5 million tonnes, a drop of 16.5 per cent compared with the previous year, and 6 per cent lower than the 5-year average of 9.1 million tonnes. Despite decreased grain shipments caused by weather conditions on the Prairies, the port experienced growth in steel products and phosphate fertilizer.
Nanaimo recorded 4.3 million tonnes of traffic, mostly lumber products and raw logs during 2021, up from 3.35 million tonnes in 2020.
Windsor saw its traffic drop by 6.3 per cent over 2020 to 4.2 million tonnes due to lower shipments of salt, petroleum products and grain, while general cargo increased and containers were higher.
Trois-Rivieres handled 3.9 million tonnes, a 15.7 per cent increase over the previous year, but in line with the average of the last five years. Most of the tonnage was dry bulk traffic, followed by liquid bulk.
Toronto recorded 2.3 million tonnes of cement, sugar and salt passing over its docks in 2021, up about 100,000 tonnes from 2020.
Belledune handled 1.84 million tonnes of freight in 2021 including the export of almost 500,000 tonnes of wood pellets.
St. Johns handled 1.37 million tonnes in 2021 down 10.1 per cent from 2021 due to drops in dry bulk and liquid bulk traffic.
Saguenay saw its traffic boosted to 1.3 million tonnes, a considerable increase from 548,500 tonnes in 2020.
Port Alberni recorded a 35 per cent increase in traffic to 769,493 tonnes from 507,094 tonnes in 2020 thanks to increased lumber and log exports