Struggling Global Economy Affecting Shipments in B.C. Ports


New figures for the first half of 2016 show that the Port of Vancouver has seen a 6% drop in cargo to 66 million tons, compared to 70 million tons in the first half of 2015, and that shipments have declined in nearly every category, including coal, petroleum, forest products, and other consumer products. The Port of Prince Rupert saw a decline of 5%, from 11.5 million tons in 2015 to 10.9 million this year. The total of number of ships has also decreased by 3%, from 1,541 one year ago to 1,497 as of June 30th.

“It’s really just a general reflection on that softer global economy,” says Port of Vancouver CEO Robin Silvester. He added that while Canada’s decline in imports may seem alarming on the surface, it may also be a “logical consequence” of the Canadian dollar’s decreasing value, which can be an obstacle for foreign buyers.

Coal, the Port of Vancouver’s biggest export, dropped 14.5% from nearly 19 million tons one year ago to 16 million tons today, due in part to a sharp decrease in thermal coal from the United States; in the Port of Prince Rupert, movement of coal dropped 28% to about two-million tons in 2016. Cargo for machinery and equipment also dropped 11%, suggesting insufficient capital investment in the economy.

Not all news was bad, however, as the ports have seen increases in grains and processed foods. Movement of grains and specialty crops increased by 2.6% to 12.7 million tons in 2016, due in part to large increases in canola, barley, and other cereals which offset a large decrease in wheat shipments.