Canadian ports maintain strong growth pace
By Leo Ryan, AJOT
In the wake of traffic increases to record levels in some cases last year, Canadian ports are generally showing positive trends in 2012. For some, record numbers are on the 2012 horizon.
Demand for Canadian commodities, notably in China-led Asia, has not yet diminished significantly, and maritime trade across the Pacific remains robust despite recent less favourable economic indicators.
The acute economic and financial problems in most Eurozone countries has had a limited impact, so far, on transatlantic trade. It remains to be seen if slower growth in Canada and the United States will impact on Canadian port activity in the fourth quarter.
On the West Coast, both the container and bulk cargo numbers remain robust at Port Metro Vancouver(PMV).
The first six months at Canada’s leading port saw overall volume increase by 6% to 62.3 million tonnes, with bulk up by nearly 6% at 42.4 million tonnes while container throughput was up 6.2% at 1.3 million TEUs.
In 2011, total cargo at Vancouver rose by 3.4% to 122.5 million tonnes. Container throughput was 2.5 million TEUs. The present trend points to a record 2012 performance on the box front, thanks to brisk imports from and exports to Asia.
Investments made by PMV and Global Container Terminals in a third berth at Deltaport have boosted capacity at Deltaport by 50% to about 1.8 million TEUs. And there’s more to come with plans well advanced to build a sister terminal to Deltaport.
Last year, the Port of Prince Rupert’s total traffic increased by 18% to 19.3 million tonnes, whereas box cargo surged by 20% to 410,386 TEUs. China trade was the key factor, with loaded imports (mainly destined for the U.S. Midwest) rising 20% and export shipments climbing 60% in response to Chinese demand for forest products.
Aerial view of the Port of Prince Rupert, BC
In the period to end August, total cargo at Prince Rupert was up 15% at 14.4 million tonnes. Even more impressively, containerized cargo had soared by 52.6% at 368,647 TEUs – again pointing to a likely record for all of 2012.
“We expect a high growth rate for both import and export of containers,” Michael Gurney, spokesman for the Prince Rupert Port Authority, told AJOT.
He indicated that coal terminal expansion at Ridley Terminals is proceeding apace. Some 12 million tonnes of additional capacity is being added, with completion slated for 2014. Construction is also underway for a road and rail corridor that will spur the development of a logistics park.
At the same time, an environmental assessment is expected to conclude late this year for expanding the capacity of five-year old Fairview Container Terminal by an additional 500,000 TEUs.
For the Port of Hamilton, Canada’s largest on the Great Lakes, last year was the most significant in its history thanks to growing evidence of cargo diversification and major construction and leasing contracts. As pointed out in an interview, Bruce Wood, President and CEO of the Hamilton Port Authority, indicated that the rapid expansion of this waterfront, industrial powerhouse over the past few years has resulted in little land available.
Wood says the investment flows have considerably exceeded the target of $500 million by 2020 set out in the 2008 Strategic Plan.
In 2011, Hamilton port cargo dropped to just over 10 million tonnes from 11.5 million tonnes due chiefly to the shutting down of the U.S. Steel blast furnace, which impacted iron ore traffic especially.
For the Port of Thunder Bay, cargo rose from 6.9 million tonnes in 2010 to 7.6 million tonnes in 2011.
Tim Heney, President and CEO of the Thunder Bay Port Authority, is optimistic for the future, notably given the increasing volume of project cargo – including wind turbines and mining equipment - moving through the port. In an important development, a new mobile harbor crane installed this past summer has significantly bolstered cargo lifting capacity.
St. Lawrence ports
After setting a new record of nearly 29 million tonnes last year, with an increase of about 18%, the Port of Québec is poised to shatter that record again in 2012 as bulk traffic remains on a high growth path.
“We anticipate a very substantial increase in 2012,” said Geoff Lemont, Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, St. Lawrence Stevedoring.
Earlier this year, the federal government announced financial support of up to $15.6 million in two projects that will boost Montreal’s container capacity by 12.5% to 1.8 million TEUs by 2014.
Last year saw Montreal total cargo attain a record 28.5 million tonnes, representing a 10% advance over 2010. Container cargo climbed 2.5% to 1.36 million TEUs, driven by mounting business with the Mediterranean region.
The outlook for Montreal is not quite as strong this year due to the combined impact of low water levels amidst a prolonged heat wave and less trade with Europe. Container cargo had fallen by 4.5% in the first six months, but could very well rebound in the coming months.
On the North Shore of the St. Lawrence River, the Port of Sept-Iles also received crucial financial assistance of up to $55 million from the federal government for the construction (now underway) of a multi-user deepwater dock in the Bay of Sept-Iles. The latter will play a vital role in iron ore shipping to Asia and other world markets.
The port recorded its largest tonnage in 30 years in 2011, totaling 25.9 million tonnes. In coming years, Pierre Gagnon, President and CEO of the Sept-Iles Port Authority, sees traffic exceeding 100 million tonnes and possibly more when various mega mining projects in the Labrador Trough enter production.
Port of Halifax enhances competitive position
On the East Coast, a major recent development was the decision by Mediterranean Shipping Company to begin making calls at the Port of Saint John in May. It is the first such service by a global container carrier to service the New Brunswick port in 25 years and comes on the heels of record total throughput of 31 million tonnes in 2011.
For the deepwater Port of Halifax, following the loss of several services last year and the termination this past spring of the 9-month old American Feeder Lines service with Boston, there was more positive news with the announcement of Zim Integrated Shipping Services adding a call in July.
Last year, Halifax total traffic declined slightly to 9.48 million tonnes while box cargo dropped by 5.7% to 410,650 TEUs. But there is much in the works to build a bright future, including a mission to Southeast Asia in October and the probable appointment of a permanent representative in Chicago.
Port officials underline investments of some $400 million over the past five years and the benefits of a strategic plan that has markedly increased business with Asian markets. At the same time, breakbulk cargo holds great promise.
Moreover, the competitive position of Halifax will be further strengthened through the planned addition in the third quarter of 2013 of two super post-Panamax cranes at the Halterm Container Terminal. The latter has already been extended by 80 metres and its berth dredged to 16.5 metres so that it can handle two super post-Panamax vessels simultaneously.