Overall cargo volume through the Port of Vancouver reached a record high of 147 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 2018, 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.
Between January 1 and June 30, 2019, overall cargo through the port increased 0.5 per cent to a record 72.5 MMT over the same time last year, with new mid-year records in containers, potash, grain and cruise passengers.
Total cargo shipped in containers was 26.6 MMT, 2.4 per cent over the 2017 high of 26 MMT. Measured in 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), container volumes increased by 4.4 per cent to a record 3.4 million TEUs in 2018, including an increase of three per cent in laden container units, a new record of 2.9 million TEUs. Top containerized imports included appliances, clothing and other consumer products as well as auto parts and manufactured goods from Asia. Top containerized exports included Canadian grain, lumber and food products, among other goods. Container quantities also reached a new mid-year record of 1.7 million TEUs, an increase of 3.5 per cent compared to mid-year container quantities in 2018.
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. Combined, dry bulk and containerized grain hit record levels of 27.4 MMT, with canola and barley each reaching new records for 2018. In particular, bulk grain was 23.3 MMT in 2018, down 1.3 per cent over the previous 2017 high of 23.6 MMT. Canola volumes increased by two per cent to 7.5 MMT and barley volumes increased by 54.4 per cent to 1.8 MMT.
Additionally, strong global demand for Canadian grain resulted in a new mid-year record of 14.8 MMT (both containerized and bulk volumes) for 2019.
Overall bulk dry cargo 90 MMT moved through the port, up 0.5 per cent from 2017. Bulk fertilizer volumes increased 16.3 per cent from 2017 to 11.5 MMT in 2018, with potash exports reaching record volumes with an increase of 27.6 per cent. Coal exports also experienced a two per cent growth over the previous year. Bulk liquid tonnage was also up 22 per cent to 11.4 MMT from 2017, including various petroleum products.
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. Breakbulk forest products ended a year of growth at 12 MMT, a 14.5 per cent increase against 2017. Domestic breakbulk log volumes also increased a notable 19 per cent in 2018.
The cruise industry in Vancouver also experienced record growth as demand for cruises to Alaska continues to increase. Cruise passengers increased 5.5 per cent in 2018 with 889,162 passengers compared to 842,928 passengers in 2017 on 241 cruise ship visits. More than one million passengers (1,077,000) are expected on 290 ship visits to Vancouver in 2019. This represents a 21 per cent increase in passengers compared to the 2018 season. So far this season, a record number of passengers were welcomed through Canada Place, bringing a 15 per cent increase over mid-year 2018.
Auto sector volumes through the port were steady in 2018, with a one per cent decrease compared to 2017. A total of 424,985 units moved through the port in 2018, a vast majority of which were imports from Asia.
As 2018 volume totals demonstrate, the robust and dynamic growth-trend of the past several years continues. The port authority is actively working with its partners to achieve a comprehensive approach to maintaining and building capacity.
“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,” said Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. “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.” Due to this collaborative approach, the Port of Vancouver is well-positioned to handle increased volumes in 2019 and beyond.