Vessel numbers, now and into the future

Canada is one of the world’s great trading nations, and we count on trade for our quality of life. Given that global trade is growing, what does that mean for the Port of Vancouver and our surrounding seas and coastlines? How much traffic will that bring and what will be the impact?

Canada Port Authorities are mandated to facilitate Canada’s trade in a way that ensures safe movement of goods, protection of the environment and consideration of local communities. As such, it’s up to us to ensure the Port of Vancouver is ready for what Canada wants to trade, and at the same time manage the impacts of growing trade.

In terms of the number of vessels growing trade will bring to the region, we study world shipping trends and trade forecasts to best understand what the future may bring.

At present, about 3,160 vessels call the Port of Vancouver each year. That’s about nine ships per day. The Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands is about 16,000 hectares of land and water – compared to 17,000 hectares for Port of Vancouver – and it sees about 30,000 seagoing vessels per year, or about 80 per day.

Based on our 2016 analysis, we forecast the number of vessel calls to the Port of Vancouver may increase to about 12 ships per day by 2026. Others are forecasting much higher numbers, but our analysis suggests they are not accounting for the fact that ships are getting larger and more efficient, so the growth rate in the number of ships is far less than the anticipated growth rate in trade overall.

The graph below shows our forecast for the number of vessels and the weight of the cargo they will bring, known as tonnage. Other vessels, such as ferries and recreational craft, are not included in this summary.

graph-historical-projected-vessel-activity
* Port of Vancouver includes Vancouver harbour, the Fraser River and Roberts Bank. This forecast was prepared in 2016 and includes expected vessel traffic from Kinder Morgan Canada Inc.’s Westridge Marine Terminal Upgrade and Expansion Project.

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is confident this number of vessels can be safely handled. Additionally, we are working with the shipping industry, government, environmentalists and the academic community to find ways to mitigate the impact of shipping on our shores, the ocean and all the creatures in it.

Our EcoAction program offers shipping lines discounted fees to use the port if they use low-emission fuels, and we are currently investigating how we can do the same for those who reduce ship noise.

Our ECHO program is a science-based collaboration that is studying the impact of shipping on marine mammals with a goal to change practices where it makes sense.

These are just two of our many environmental programs and initiatives.

For more information on shipping and the environment, visit these resources:
Transport Canada Shipping and the Environment
International Maritime Organization
Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions
Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Shipping

Peter Xotta
Vice President, Operations and Planning
Vancouver Fraser Port Authority