Overall cargo volume through the Port of Vancouver reached a record high of 142.1 million metric tonnes (MT) in 2017, up five per cent from 2016. Cargo diversity and strength of the Canadian economy provided a boost to annual volumes. Sectors experiencing strong growth included containers and bulk grain, both of which hit new records in 2017.

“The record year for cargo movement and healthy growth across the port reflects the strength of the Canadian economy in 2017, as well as the Port of Vancouver’s ability to accommodate the most diversified range of cargo of any port in North America,” said Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

Overall container traffic saw a significant increase of 11 per cent over 2016 to reach a record of 3.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), with loaded imports up by 11 per cent. 2017 saw a 6.6 per cent increase in cargo-filled containers, setting a new record of 2.8 million TEUs. Volumes were driven by a global upswing in economic activity, which boosted Canadian export sales and overall strength in the transpacific container market. By mid-year 2018, 1.64 million TEUs moved through the port, showing a five per cent increase over mid-year 2017. This included a 6.6 per cent increase in containerized exports.

Strong global demand for Canadian agriculture was met with a bumper harvest in Canada and increased exports of grain through the Port of Vancouver. Bulk grain saw another record year in 2017 at 23.6 million MT, an eight per cent increase over 2016, making this the Port of Vancouver’s fourth consecutive year of record grain volumes. Wheat and canola volumes increased by 7.9 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively. Animal feed volumes were 1.2 million MT, an increase of 106.9 per cent, much of it destined to China and Vietnam. Specialty crops volumes decreased by four per cent.

Coal export volumes made a strong recovery in 2017 from a decline in 2016. Bulk dry cargo at 89.6 million MT was up 5.9 per cent from 2016. Bulk liquid tonnage increased to 9.4 million MT, up 1.4 per cent from 2016. 44 million MT of dry bulk cargo had moved through the port as of June 2018, as well as 5.8 million MT of liquid bulk.

The auto sector saw a nine per cent increase in 2017 from 2016. Boosted by a record year for auto sales across Canada and an increase in consumer confidence, a total of 429,800 units moved through the port. This is the third consecutive year of an upward trend in autos through Vancouver. 236,400 units had moved through the port by mid-2018.

The breakbulk sector saw a two per cent increase over 2016 due to strong woodpulp exports and increased movement of domestic consumer goods along the Fraser River and between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. B.C.’s wood supply remains a challenge, particularly for wood damaged by the mountain pine beetle in the Interior of the province. Breakbulk cargo increased 14.4 per cent to 8.8 million MT compared to mid-year 2017, mainly attributable to a 21.1 per cent increase in domestic traffic.

The cruise industry in Vancouver is experiencing stable growth as demand for cruises to Alaska continues to increase. In 2017, the port welcomed 237 cruise ships and 842,928 passengers compared to 826,820 passengers in 2016, an increase of two per cent. Another strong year is expected in 2018 with more than 900,000 passengers set to arrive in Canada Place during a total of 243 calls. In May, the port authority celebrated an exciting milestone with the arrival of the 25 millionth cruise passenger through the Port of Vancouver. Cruise passenger traffic is up 12.7 per cent over mid-year 2017.

Looking ahead

Over the next number of years, bolstered by a positive economic outlook in Canada, in Asia and globally, the Port of Vancouver anticipates cargo volumes to increase steadily. “This record year is a success shared with all the port terminal operators, many of whom have made investments in infrastructure and technology that have increased the capacity of the Port of Vancouver, and with the many shippers and marine carriers whose continued confidence in the gateway we appreciate,” added Silvester.