Mid-year trade growth through the Port of Vancouver reflects strength of diversified sectors
Overall 11% mid-year increases over 2022 driven by grain, automobile and cruise sectors
Vancouver, B.C.: With growth in some sectors and softening in others, cargo volumes through the Port of Vancouver increased by 11% in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period last year. The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s 2023 mid-year statistics, released today, show a total of 75.9 million metric tonnes (MMT) of goods moved through Port of Vancouver terminals between January 1 and June 30, 2023, compared to 68.6 MMT for the same period in 2022.
“I want to recognize the outstanding efforts of the port community, partners, and terminal operators, who, despite facing some headwinds in the first half of the year, contributed to near-record cargo volumes through the Port of Vancouver,” said Victor Pang, CFO and interim president and CEO at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the federal agency mandated to enable Canada’s trade through the Port of Vancouver. “Coming off a challenging year, we’ve seen drops in some sectors—reflecting a softening economy—and encouraging rebounds in other key commodities such as grain, auto and cruise. The 2023 mid-year statistics reinforce the foundational strength of being North America’s most diversified port and a testament to the outstanding efforts of the port community.”
The mid-year cargo volumes are released annually and include data from the first six months of the year through the end of June. As such, these figures do not reflect any cargo impacts resulting from the July 2023 labour disruption.
This is the second largest mid-year volume of cargo ever handled by Port of Vancouver terminal operators (the record of 76.4 MMT was set in 2021) and a new record for the bulk sector at 55.5 MMT, following a significant rebound in grain volumes as Prairie farmers moved last season’s bumper crop to international markets through the Pacific gateway.
Grain was up 106% overall compared to the same period last year, increasing sharply because this year’s bumper crop season was preceded by a drought-affected season. This included a 121% increase for bulk grain and 28% increase for containerized grain. Canola volumes were up 124%, while bulk specialty crops such as lentils increased 89%. Bulk wheat was up 144%, with 17% of the wheat exported through the Port of Vancouver going to Africa as world markets continue to settle following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Japan and Algeria were the top-two export markets for Canadian wheat.
The automotive and cruise sectors also showed significant increases over 2022 during the first half of 2023. Automotive was up almost one-third, following strong terminal throughput in early 2023, as supply chain and production issues eased, bringing the sector into line with traditional volumes after several years of volatility. The cruise sector remains on course for a record season, with passenger numbers up 82% year-to-date June compared to the same period last year. Almost 500,000 passengers passed through the Canada Place cruise terminal at the Port of Vancouver from April 1 to June 30, 2023, and there were 134 cruise ship visits.
“We saw average cruise ship occupancy rates reach 96% in June for the first time since 2019—marking a full return to pre-pandemic passenger levels and helping the local cruise sector continue on its way towards a record year in terms of passengers and cruise ship visits,” said Pang. “The strength of the Vancouver cruise sector’s comeback after the pandemic is benefitting the local economy, and in particular tourism and hospitality businesses throughout the region.”
Container volumes through the Port of Vancouver fell in the first half of 2023, in line with trends being seen throughout North America, as a slowing economy meant fewer imports. Overall container volumes were down 14% compared to the first half of 2022, as imports (or inbound laden) dropped 18%. The decrease was partially offset at the Port of Vancouver by recovering containerized exports, with outbound laden up 14% as Canadian exporters took advantage of lower container freight rates and increased availability post-pandemic.
“The Port of Vancouver—like many major container ports in North America—experienced a drop in containerized imports throughout the first six months of 2023 due to a cooling economy and well-stocked retailer inventories,” said Pang. “Long-term, the outlook for the Port of Vancouver’s container sector is robust—as Canada’s population, economy and trade continue to grow, and containerized trade through the Vancouver gateway increases under the federal government’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.”
Volumes for other commodities remained steady with fertilizer down 1% and coal down 2%. Foreign breakbulk was 15% lower overall, following a slowing Canadian economy, lower forestry exports and many Canadian exporters shifting their method of handling to containers as pandemic disruptions resolved.
- Overall cargo up 11% to 75.9 MMT compared to mid-year 2022
- Container quantities decreased 14% to 1.6 million TEUs. Import quantities decreased 17% to 790,308 TEUs. Export quantities decreased 10% to 764,597 TEUs.
- Breakbulk cargo decreased 4% to 9.3 MMT. Log and wood pulp volumes remained flat, while basic metals and miscellaneous goods decreased 31% and 6% respectively compared to 2022.
- Bulk dry cargo increased 18%. Grain and sulphur volumes increased 121% and 20% respectively, while coal and potash volumes were down 2% and 6% respectively.
- Bulk liquid tonnage up 5%. Petroleum products volumes increased 6% and canola oil volumes decreased 4%.
- Cruise vessel calls and passengers increased 13% and 82% respectively compared to the first half of 2022
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About the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and the Port of Vancouver
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is the federal agency responsible for the shared stewardship of the lands and waters that make up 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 oversees 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 more than 35 Coast Salish Indigenous groups. 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 $305 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.See All News
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