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Asian container traffic increase at B.C. ports

Asian container traffic increase at B.C. ports

WASHINGTON: B.C.’s ports are providing some light for Canada in the prevailing economic gloom of downbound commodities and energy fortunes. According to container shipping trade numbers compiled by Drewry Maritime Research and released this week, North American western seaboard ports ended 2015 on a far brighter note than they began the year.

For example, container traffic flowing from Asia to North America’s West Coast in November grew 6.6% year-on-year, one point behind growth in container traffic from Asia to the continent’s east coast. But B.C. ports in general and Prince Rupert in particular were the real winners in the increased container traffic flow.

While Drewry pointed out that even though Asian goods traffic through U.S. West Coast ports was up 5% in November compared with the same month a year ago, year to date it was still down 2.3%. Growth in Asian imports for B.C.’s ports, meanwhile, was up 15.2% in November to around one million 20-foot containers (TEU) and up 17.5% year to date. The U.K.-based shipping consultancy pointed to Prince Rupert as the West Coast port that “continues to draw the cargo with global imports climbing almost 7% in November, and by almost one quarter on a year-to-date basis.”

Reasons for Prince Rupert’s success, according to Drewry, include diversion of cargo from American West Coast ports, the decision by 2M partners (Maersk Line (CO:MAERSK.B) and Mediterranean Shipping Company), to add Prince Rupert to their New Orient service, which began in September, and Canadian National Railway’s (TSX:CNR) “aggressive marketing … offering direct connections from Prince Rupert to key inland points such as Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans … .”

As Business in Vancouver reported last week, DP World, the Dubai-based company that owns Prince Rupert’s Fairview and Vancouver’s Centerm container terminals, announced plans in December to study further expansion of Fairview to increase its annual container handling capacity to more than two million TEU. Last March, Fairview’s operator committed $200 million to increase the terminal’s capacity 60%.

In Port Metro Vancouver, GCT Canada, which operates the port’s Vanterm and Deltaport container terminals, started a $280 million project in November to expand its Deltaport intermodal yard to increase its annual capacity to 1.9 million TEU.

The GCT Global Container Terminals Inc. subsidiary announced this week that it had ordered 12 state-of-the art gantry cranes from Finnish manufacturer Konecranes (HEL:KCR1V) to increase container-handling efficiency at Deltaport.

While the 2% annual growth rate in Asian container traffic to North America’s West Coast might be encouraging, Drewry numbers show that traffic to East Coast North American ports grew 17.3% for the same period.