Business

Coal shipments rise to 35 per cent of port exports

Container shipments through Port Metro Vancouver were up four per cent in 2013 and are projected by the port to double over the next 15 years. - Port Metro Vancouver
Container shipments through Port Metro Vancouver were up four per cent in 2013 and are projected by the port to double over the next 15 years.
— image credit: Port Metro Vancouver

Port Metro Vancouver recorded nine per cent growth in overall cargo moved in 2013, with increases in coal, grain and container shipments leading the way.

Coal shipments – which have been controversial – climbed 17 per cent to 38.2 million tonnes, split between about 26 million tonnes of steelmaking coal and 12 million tonnes of thermal coal.

The port's coal shipping capacity is expected to climb with a pending expansion in North Vancouver and, potentially a new terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks that has hit strong opposition.

Coal now makes up 35 per cent of port exports.

Container shipments were up four per cent in 2013 to 2.83 million containers.

Port Metro CEO Robin Silvester said that gain stems from more containerized grain exports and increased imports of consumer products to Canada to meet rising consumer demand.

It's close to the port's long-term expectation of five per cent a year overall container growth that Silvester said is the basis for the proposed Terminal 2 expansion at Deltaport.

"The growth we've been expecting is coming to pass and underlining the importance of the infrastructure strategy we've been working on with our federal and provincial partners," Silvester said.

One of the most visible infrastructure upgrades – the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor work to build eight railway overpasses in Delta, Surrey and Langley – should be finished within a year, he said.

The overpasses will reduce road congestion from trains blocking level crossings that would otherwise worsen as port traffic grows. They'll also reduce or eliminate train whistling.

Silvester said the port projects a doubling of container shipments over the next 15 years or so and up to 30 per cent growth in grain handling.

He said last year's growth of 11 million tonnes of cargo – to a record 135 million tonnes overall – was the equivalent of adding an entire medium-sized port in Metro Vancouver.

He said the port supports 60,000 jobs in the Lower Mainland that earn 50 per cent more than the average wage.

Slightly fewer oil tankers loaded at Kinder Morgan's Westridge Terminal in Burnaby – 48 in 2013 compared to 50 in 2012.

Oil tanker visits are expected to soar to 400 per year if the Trans Mountain pipeline twinning proceeds.

Silvester said the drop in oil exports was because refineries in Washington State took more crude via a branch of the pipeline that serves them, leaving less for Kinder Morgan to export.

More than 812,000 cruise ship passengers visited Vancouver – a 22 per cent increase – and the total number of cruise ships visiting climbed to 235.

Port Metro Vancouver CEO Robin Silvester. Adrian MacNair photo

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