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The Port of Vancouver
As Canada’s largest port, the Port of Vancouver serves as a strategic gateway for the country’s supply chain and economic trade. The port not only connects Canadian businesses and consumers with a wide range of products that they use on a daily basis, but it also generates tax revenues and provides employment for the communities that surround it. In fact, it supports the trade of about $240 billion in goods, provides more than 115,000 jobs (and $7 billion in wages) and contributes nearly $12 billion (CDN) in gross domestic product (GDP) nationwide.
Situated on the southwest coast of British Columbia, the Port of Vancouver extends from Roberts Bank and the Fraser River up to and including Burrard Inlet. It includes more than 62 square miles of water, more than 3,700 acres of land and hundreds of miles of shoreline, bordering 16 municipalities.
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is the federal agency responsible for the stewardship of the lands and waters that make up the Port of Vancouver. The port authority’s vision is for the Port of Vancouver to be the world’s most sustainable port.
Key Port Activities
Roughly the same size as the next five largest Canadian ports combined, the Port of Vancouver encompasses 29 major terminals and can handle a diversified range of cargo, including bulk, containers, breakbulk, liquid bulk, automobiles and cruise. Canada’s gateway to more than 170 trading economies around the world, the Port of Vancouver touches $1 of every $3 of Canada’s trade in goods outside of North America.
Key port activities include (but aren’t limited to):
- Private terminal operators that manage loading and unloading cargo through the port terminals.
- Shipping lines that operate large commercial vessels that call at the port.
- Railways and trucking companies that deliver goods by land to and from the port.
- Retailers, companies and freight forwarders that contract and pay for the movement of goods through this key gateway.
- Organizations like the Canadian Coast Guard, Canada Border Services Agency, RCMP and local police oversee port safety and security. “We collaborate with them on emergency response and safety of navigation channels,” the port authority notes on its website.
Setting New Records
According to the port authority’s latest report (covering January 1 to June 30, 2021), overall cargo volumes through the port reached a record high of 76.4 million metric tonnes (MMT), up 7% from 2020 mid-year, and 5% above the previous record set in 2019. The port authority says sectors that experienced strong growth include grain and containers, both of which hit new records in 2021.
“Record grain volumes through the Port of Vancouver once again over the first half of the year demonstrate the continued growth in the global demand for Canadian agricultural products,” said the port authority’s President and CEO Robin Silvester in a press release.
The port authority also reported that container quantities (measured by TEUs or twenty-foot equivalents) in the first half of 2021 increased by 24% compared to mid-year 2020 to a record 1.9 million TEUs.
The quantities were 15% higher than the previous record set in 2019, “as a result of the strengthening economy and continued growth in global demand for Canadian products shipped in containers, and Canadian demand for consumer and manufacturing goods from Asia,” the port authority added.
Serving Canadian Shippers for Generations to Come
When it comes to competitive advantages, the port authority points to the Vancouver-gateway’s infrastructure, capacity, service choices, labor stability, modern equipment, supply chain transparency and Asia market presence as some of its top selling points. “While we’re already geographically close to Asia, the Port of Vancouver is also now even more closely connected to Asian markets with a dedicated office in Shanghai, China, and a Chief Representative to support a long-established Asia market presence,” it points out.
The port authority is also committed to environmental sustainability. In 2020, it renewed The Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, a strategy uniting Pacific Northwest ports on both sides of the border around a shared vision to phase out port-related emissions by 2050. It rewards operators of the cleanest and quietest ships with up to a 47% discount on harbor dues; is accelerating the trial and adoption of low-emission fuels and technologies; and enabling ships to “plug in” to low-emission hydroelectric energy while docked.
Currently, the port authority is leading the work on two major container terminal projects: the Centerm Expansion Project (currently under construction) and the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project. Once completed, the Centerm Expansion Project will help the port meet the anticipated short-term demands of importers and exporters.
“Even with this increase, the port is forecast to run out of capacity by the mid to late 2020s,” the port authority said. “If approved, the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project will provide a 50% increase to the port’s container capacity and will serve Canadian importers and exporters for generations to come.”