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Steady mid-year cargo volumes amid global pandemic reflect the Port of Vancouver’s vital role in Canada’s supply chain

September 3, 2020

New mid-year records in bulk and containerized grain 

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority today released the 2020 mid-year statistics for goods moving through the Port of Vancouver. From January 1 to June 30, 2020, overall cargo through the port decreased by 1.1% from 72.4 to 71.7 million metric tonnes (MMT) over the same time last year. Despite an overall decrease in cargo moving through the port, new mid-year records were set for bulk and containerized grain, as well as total foreign tonnage and foreign exports.

“We are experiencing unprecedented times in Canada and across the globe as we grapple with a pandemic that is causing economic impacts, making short term predictions difficult,” said Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. “Despite these challenges, mid-year cargo volumes through the Port of Vancouver remained stable and Canada’s trade has continued to flow, connecting Canadians and Canadian businesses to essential goods and international markets. This resiliency is a testament to the importance of diverse trading partners, foreign markets, and a range of cargo moving through the port.”

Strong global demand for Canadian grain resulted in a new mid-year record of 16.3 MMT for both bulk and containerized grain, an increase of 10.4% or 1.5 MMT compared to mid-year grain records from the previous year. Total foreign tonnage and foreign exports resulted in mid-year records of 57.7 and 49.7 MMT, up 1.2% and 2.1% respectively, due to strong increases in grain, petroleum, chemicals and canola oil volumes.

Increases in wheat, up 7.5%, canola, up 25.6%, and specialty crops, up 10.0%, contributed to this new record. In fertilizers, potash exports decreased by 6.7% from last year’s record and sulphur increased by 5.7%.

Between January 1 and June 30, 2020, several sectors experienced declines as a result of weather conditions, trade challenges, cancelled sailings, railroad blockades and the global COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the sectors impacted were autos, down 34.1%, breakbulk, down 17.1%, and containers, down 7.7% from mid-year 2019 to 1.6 million 20-foot equivalents or TEUs.

Cruise season at the Port of Vancouver has been postponed until October 31, 2020, following direction from Transport Canada. The port authority will continue to follow direction from Transport Canada, and is refocusing efforts to plan for the 2021 cruise season.

“As we’ve seen from previous economic downturns, trade is generally well-positioned to rebound strongly,” said Silvester. “In container trade, we are already seeing monthly volumes recover when compared to the same month in 2019, and the demand for goods shipped in containers continues to be projected to grow going forward. A key part of our role as a Canada Port Authority is to advance the critical infrastructure required to accommodate this growth through the port.”

Along with industry and government partners across the Lower Mainland, the port authority is leading the development of more than $1 billion worth of infrastructure projects that will further strengthen its competitiveness as a West Coast trade hub and support a more fluid supply chain to and from the Port of Vancouver.

To accommodate growing trade in containers, the port authority is currently leading two container terminal projects and has partnered with government and industry to invest in a number of road, rail and other infrastructure projects.

Once completed, the Centerm Expansion Project will be able to accommodate a 65% increase in container traffic by having added only 15% more land, along with a terminal reconfiguration. The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project is a proposed new terminal which, if approved, would add nearly 50% more container capacity to the Port of Vancouver. The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project is designed to meet Canada’s long-term trade demands, well beyond the mid-to late-2030s, making it a critical generational project. Both projects are needed to meet the forecasted demand for trade of goods in containers, and will serve Canadians well into the future.

“I’d like to acknowledge all of our valued port terminal operators and stakeholders for their commitment to contribute to a more fluid and efficient supply chain and increased capacity at the Port of Vancouver,” continued Silvester. “Always, but especially during these challenging times, it is the dedicated work of port terminal operators, marine carriers, rail and trucking companies, labour, government, and every partner in the supply chain, that makes it possible to maintain the flow of import goods that Canadians need, and the export of trade to keep our economy strong. We applaud the efforts of all partners facilitating trade through the port, which, along with trade-enabling infrastructure projects, will be a major engine for Canada’s economic recovery in the coming months by supporting jobs and businesses.”

More information


  • Overall cargo down 1.1 %, a decrease to 71.7 MMT compared to mid-year 2019
  • Container quantities decreased 7.7% to 1.6 million TEUs. Import quantities decreased 4.0% to 824,180 TEUs. Export quantities decreased 11.6% to 740,298 TEUs.
  • Breakbulk cargo decreased 17.1% to 7.3 MMT. Woodpulp increased 13.6% compared to 2019, while log volumes decreased 23.3%.
  • Bulk dry cargo increased 0.2%. Coal volumes decreased 4.1% while grain volumes are up 11.4%, potash is down 6.7% and sulphur is up 5.7%
  • Bulk liquid tonnage up by 35.1% over mid-year 2019 due to a 41.7% increase in petroleum products and a 21.3% increase in canola oil
  • Cruise passenger traffic has been postponed until October 31, 2020

Media contact:

Arpen Rana
Media relations advisor
[email protected]

About the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and the Port of Vancouver

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is the federal agency responsible for the stewardship of the Port of Vancouver. Like all Canada Port Authorities, we are accountable to the federal minister of transport, and operate pursuant to the Canada Marine Act with a mandate to enable Canada’s trade through the Port of Vancouver, while protecting the environment and considering local communities. The port authority is structured as a non-share corporation, is financially self-sufficient and does not rely on tax dollars for operations. Our revenues come from port terminals and tenants who lease port lands, and from port users who pay various fees such as harbour dues. Profits are reinvested in port infrastructure. The port authority has control over the use of port land and water, which includes more than 16,000 hectares of water, over 1,500 hectares of land, and approximately 350 kilometres of shoreline. Located on the southwest coast of British Columbia in Canada, the Port of Vancouver extends from Roberts Bank and the Fraser River up to and including Burrard Inlet, bordering 16 municipalities and intersecting the traditional territories and treaty lands of several Coast Salish First Nations. The Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest port, and the third largest in North America by tonnes of cargo. Enabling the trade of approximately $240 billion in goods with more than 170 world economies, port activities sustain 115,300 jobs, $7 billion in wages, and $11.9 billion in GDP across Canada.


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