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Strong Canadian exports support record 2023 trade volumes through the Port of Vancouver  

March 22, 2024

Port terminals and supply chain partners at Canada’s largest port demonstrated stability and reliability over a challenging period—keeping trade moving and supporting Canadians and their businesses  

Vancouver, B.C.: Cargo volumes through the Port of Vancouver increased by 6% in 2023, as terminal operators and supply chain partners moved a record 150.4 million metric tonnes (MMT) of trade.  

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s 2023 cargo statistics, released today, show it was a mixed year at the Port of Vancouver, with growth in some sectors and softening in others. Notably, bulk and containerized exports, auto imports and cruise all grew—including near-record grain exports—while container imports softened in line with trends seen across the West Coast. 

“We know reliable access to international markets is vital for Canadian exports and Canadian businesses—supporting jobs, investment and economic activity from coast to coast. I want to acknowledge the resilience of Port of Vancouver terminal operators and supply chain partners, as they moved record volumes of trade in 2023 against a challenging backdrop to support Canadians and their jobs and businesses,” said Peter Xotta, president and CEO of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the federal agency mandated with enabling Canadian trade through the Port of Vancouver, while protecting the environment and considering local communities.  

Almost as much cargo moved through the Port of Vancouver in 2023 as moved through Canada’s next five largest ports combined, while the port handled North America’s most diversified range of cargo—including bulk, containers, breakbulk and automobiles, as well as overseeing cruise. 

“In 2023, we saw operations at the Port of Vancouver support a 12% increase in export volumes and enable trade with 142 different countries, including delivering a near-record Prairie grain harvest to world markets,” Xotta continued. “The record cargo and export volumes moved last year demonstrate that one of the port’s key strengths and competitive advantages continues to be its diversification—both in terms of the commodities it can handle and the countries it connects to.” 

Trade last year was affected by a number of global and domestic challenges, including a cooling global economy, geo-political issues such as disruptions to the Panama Canal and Red Sea trade routes, and a strike that affected container, bulk, breakbulk and auto terminals at Port of Vancouver. The recovery from July’s 13-day strike by B.C. longshore workers—which directly impacted operations throughout the port aside from a few areas including cruise and bulk grain—was both steady and challenging, with fluidity largely restored in the fall. 

Bulk exports increased 13% in 2023, compared to 2022, to reach a record 91.5 MMT—including increases in grain, sulphur, coal and petroleum product volumes. Nine bulk grain terminals at the port helped to export 14.7 MMT of wheat to 38 different countries, a 52% year-over-year increase, while canola exports increased 36% to 7.0 MMT and specialty crops grew 30% to 4.0 MMT. Canadian grain export volumes increased sharply in 2023 because a bumper crop season was preceded by a drought-affected season.    

Automotive was up 36% in 2023 as the sector returned to pre-pandemic volumes, with supply chain and production issues easing and consumer demand for vehicles remaining resilient. Breakbulk volumes were down 7%, including a 25% drop in foreign breakbulk volumes due largely to the cooling economy and a fall in metals imports, as well as exports of forestry products shifting to containers. 

Cruise had another strong season, with the Canada Place cruise terminal at the Port of Vancouver having 15 of its 20 busiest days ever in 2023, as it welcomed a record 1.24 million passengers and 332 ship visits. 

“Vancouver’s cruise sector continues to be a success story with further growth in 2023—bringing more visitors than ever before to our world-class city and supporting local businesses and jobs, particularly in hospitality and tourism,” Xotta said. “We look forward to continuing to partner with cruise lines and industry to build the capacity and sustainability needed to keep this important sector thriving.” 

Container volumes were down 12% year-over-year, in line with trends seen across North America’s West Coast, as a cooling global economy and overstocked retailer inventories impacted imports (laden inbound containers were down 13%). Containerized exports (laden outbound) continued to recover from pandemic-era disruptions and were up 7% in 2023, as Canadian businesses used the increased availability of empty containers to deliver goods to markets across the globe. 

“While there was a softening of container volumes moving through the Port of Vancouver in 2023, Canada’s container sector remains on a long-term growth trajectory and we saw encouraging signs of recovery in Q4 as year-over-year volumes started to grow,” Xotta said. “We continue to partner with industry and government to ensure the port has the capacity needed to support Canada’s long-term trade needs, including expanding terminal capacity and investing in digital tools, collaboration and data sharing to ensure existing infrastructure is used to its maximum potential.” 

Key port capacity and optimization projects that progressed in 2023 at the Port of Vancouver include:  

More information 


  • Overall cargo was a record 150.4 MMT, up 6% compared to 2022. The previous record cargo volume moved by Port of Vancouver terminals was 147.1 MMT in 2018. In 2022, port terminals handled 141.4 MMT.  
  • Export volumes were up 12% year-over-year at a record 102.3 MMT, including bulk exports increasing by 13% to hit a record 91.5 MMT 
  • Dry bulk increased 11% to 99.8 MMT—led by increases in grain (39%), sulphur (11%) and coal (7%). Potash volumes were down 11% compared to 2022, at 8.9 MMT. 
  • Liquid bulk increased 7% to 9.8 MMT, with petroleum products growing 12% while canola oil was down 7% 
  • Container volumes at the Port of Vancouver decreased 12% to 3.1 million twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEU. Imports (laden inbound) decreased 13% to 1.6 million TEU, while exports (laden outbound) increased 7% to 755,000 TEU.  Empty container volumes were down 24% at 770,000 TEU. 
  • Cruise vessel calls increased 8% to 332, with a record 1.24 million passenger visits (up 53% compared to 2022)  
  • Breakbulk volumes decreased 7% to 18.5 MMT, with foreign breakbulk down 25% to 2.0 MMT 

Media contact  

Alex Munro, senior communications 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 shared 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 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 between 140 and 170 countries each year, port activities sustain 115,300 jobs, $7 billion in wages, and $11.9 billion in GDP across Canada. 


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