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Diversification protects Port Metro Vancouver from full impact of economic downturn

February 18, 2016

Year-end statistics include record growth in some sectors

Vancouver, B.C.: Port Metro Vancouver today released its 2015 year-end statistics. Overall volume remained steady at 138 million tonnes of cargo as sectors experiencing declines were offset by others that hit new records. This is the port’s third consecutive year of strong cargo volumes, with new records set in the container, potash, and grain and agri-product sectors.

Cargo shipped in containers continued to show substantial growth due to increased trade with Asia, with a five per cent jump in units (known as twenty-foot-equivalent units or TEUs) for a new record of 3.1 million TEUs. Grain and agri-product exports increased by eight per cent over 2014 to 25.1 million metric tonnes, and potash exports were 8.7 million metric tonnes, up 15.6 per cent from the prior year.

Port Metro Vancouver is Canada’s largest port and it accommodates the most diversified range of cargo of any port in North America. This diversification has allowed the port to continue to grow, despite economic downturns in some sectors.

“These strong and consistent cargo volumes through Port Metro Vancouver demonstrate the diversification of the port and the Canadian economy,” said Robin Silvester, President and Chief Executive Officer of Port Metro Vancouver. “The many terminals throughout the port have done a remarkable job of facilitating Canada’s trade.”

“As Canada’s largest port, Port Metro Vancouver is a leading example of how to operate a global port with respect for the environment, marine safety and security,” said the Honorable Marc Garneau, Federal Minister of Transport. “It continues to play a critical role in Canada’s economy – importing goods from around the world and exporting Canada’s resources to critical international markets – while also working with local communities and promoting environmentally sustainable operations.”

Grain handlers and railways implemented effective measures to handle the significant increase in grain exports after the bumper year in 2014. Bulk specialty crop (lentils, pulses) volumes reached 3.5 million metric tonnes, an increase of 20 per cent, with growth in exports to India and China.

There was a decline in breakbulk metal imports (construction steel and fabricated components) during the second half of 2015 as a result of lower capital investments in the energy sector; however with volumes of 1.4 million metric tonnes, 2015 remained the second highest year for metals on record. Foreign forest product exports (logs, lumber, woodchips and woodpulp) ended the year at 10.9 million metric tonnes, a slight decrease from 2014. Coal volumes were down by eight per cent mainly due to reduced demand from China and lower thermal coal exports from the United States.

“In the last five years, the port has grown by the equivalent of the annual volume of Canada’s second largest port – the Port of Montreal,” continued Robin Silvester. “And we anticipate that growth to continue at about the same rate over the next five years, despite the current slow-down.”

To manage that growth, the port authority is collaborating with all levels of government and other port stakeholders to ensure the port is responsive and prepared to meet increasing consumer and international demand. A number of infrastructure projects are being proposed to improve the flow of goods throughout the Lower Mainland and beyond, and the port authority is working with terminals and tenants to use port lands as efficiently as possible.

Canadian port authorities are mandated to safely facilitate Canada’s trade demand while protecting the environment and considering local communities. Port Metro Vancouver is recognized globally as a leader in sustainability, including by the likes of Sir Richard Branson and the Carbon War Room. In 2015 the port authority announced initiatives such as shore power for container vessels and the ECHO Program, the latter of which aims to better understand and manage the impact of shipping activities on at-risk whales throughout the southern coast of British Columbia.

About Port Metro Vancouver:

Port Metro Vancouver is Canada’s largest port and the third largest tonnage port in North America, responsible for Canada’s trade with more than 160 world economies. Located in a naturally beautiful setting on Canada’s west coast, Port Metro Vancouver is responsible for the efficient and reliable movement of goods and passengers, and integrates environmental, social and economic sustainability initiatives into all areas of port operations. Port Metro Vancouver is committed to meaningful engagement with the communities in which it operates and the shared obligation to improve the quality of life for Canadians. Enabling the trade of approximately $200 billion in goods in 2015, the port generates an estimated 100,000 jobs, $6.1 billion in wages, and $9.7 billion in GDP across Canada. As a non-shareholder, financially self-sufficient corporation established by the Government of Canada, Port Metro Vancouver operates pursuant to the Canada Marine Act and is accountable to the elected federal Minister of Transport.

For more information


2015 Year End Cargo Statistics – Highlights

  • Highlights for 2015 include new records in:
    • total container TEU volumes at 3.1 million TEUs (up 4.9 per cent over 2014)
    • bulk specialty crop at 3.5 million metric tonnes (up 20 per cent over 2014)
    • potash exports at 8.7 million metric tonnes (up 15.6 per cent over 2014)


Port Metro Vancouver 2015 auto volumes were 384,500 units, a nine per cent increase driven by another record year for Canadian auto sales. The strong resurgence of vessel imports (autos entering the gateway by ship) led to a 10 per cent growth in 2015.


There was a 25 per cent decline in foreign metal imports during the second half of 2015 due to the slowing of capital investments in the energy industry. However, 2015 remained the second highest year for breakbulk metal volumes on record at 1.4 million metric tonnes.

Breakbulk forest product exports ended the year at 7.7 million metric tonnes, a five per cent decrease against 2014. A two percent increase in 2015 foreign woodpulp exports, though modest, was a highlight against the decline of other forest products in this category.


Total bulk grain exports increased by 10 percent in 2015 to 21.6 million tonnes, a new record for the second year in a row after surging by 22 per cent in 2014. Grain handlers and railways implemented effective measures to handle volumes after a highly productive 2013/14 crop year.

Bulk specialty crop volumes (lentils and pulses) were 3.5 million metric tonnes, an increase of 20 per cent, much of it destined to India and China. Wheat exports were a record 10.7 million metric tonnes, an increase of 20 per cent over the prior year.

Total coal exports for 2015 decreased by eight percent over the prior year, at 35.1 million metric tonnes. Thermal coal exports were down by 21 per cent, driven mainly by lower U.S-origin volumes, while metallurgical coal exports were down by two per cent


Overall container units increased by five per cent in 2015, setting a new record of 3.1 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) after increasing by three per cent in 2014. 2015 saw a three per cent increase in cargo-filled inbound containers, setting a new record of 1.5 million TEUs. September 2015 was the second-highest monthly volume of inbound TEUs on record, following the monthly record set in July 2014 when shippers were diverting cargo from U.S. west coast ports due to a labour dispute.


Cruise passenger numbers remained strong, as Port Metro Vancouver welcomed 805,400 passengers from 228 vessel visits. The 2015 season was lengthened by multiple cruise itineraries to Hawaii and along the U.S. west coast.


Julia Ren
Media & Government Affairs Advisor
[email protected]

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