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As Port of Vancouver grows, Flexport seeks to broaden British Columbia services

Overall cargo throughput at Canada’s Port of Vancouver increased 0.5% to a record 72.5 million metric tons (MMT) by mid-year, authorities report. New services in digitized freight forwarding have taken notice. 

“This year’s record mid-year cargo volumes reflect what continues to be two of the Port of Vancouver’s greatest strengths—its broad global reach and ability to accommodate the most diversified range of cargo of any port in North America,” said Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. “While Canada is certainly not exempt from the challenges impacting global trade, the diverse range of trading partners and cargo handled through the Port of Vancouver ensures the entire port remains resilient, despite variations in any one sector or commodity.”

Strong global demand for Canadian grain resulted in a new mid-year record of 14.8 MMT (both containerized and bulk volumes). Increases in wheat, up 22.4%, and specialty crops, up 34.2%, more than off-set the 12.6% decrease in canola exports at mid-year, which was largely due to a 49.1% per cent decrease in canola exports to China in the first and second quarters of 2019. In fertilizers, potash exports increased 27.3% to record volumes of 5.5 MMT.

Shipping container quantities (measured by TEUs or 20-foot equivalents) also reached a new mid-year record of 1.7 million TEUs, an increase of 3.5% compared to mid-year container quantities in 2018.

In Vancouver, containers arrive filled with electronics, food, clothing and other consumer goods. They leave loaded with Canadian agri products, local wine and craft beer, B.C. forest products and lumber, among other goods. Container trade through the Port of Vancouver is essential for Canadian businesses to gain access to international markets. Approximately $1 in $3 of Canada’s trade in goods beyond North America move through the port, with a significant portion of these goods moving in containers.

However, independent forecasts show that Canadian west coast container ports will be full by as early as the mid-2020s and therefore unable to accommodate growing trade, which will have far reaching consequences to the Canadian economy. In preparation for growth in trade shipped in containers, the port authority has partnered with terminal operators to expand and improve existing operations as well as government and stakeholders to invest in road and rail projects to support a more fluid supply chain.

“As Canada’s international trade continues to grow, it is our job as a Canada Port Authority to make sure the port is ready to handle the increasing trade volumes through Canada’s west coast,” continued Silvester.

Upstart digital freight forwarder, Flextport, recently announced the opening of its first Canadian office, in Vancouver, thereby offing U.S. shippers access to the vast Canadian import and export market as well as local expertise in freight forwarding and customs brokerage.

The move gives San Francisco-based Flexport direct access to a crucial region to North American trade, especially on the Transpacific EastBound (TPEB) lane, where Flexport achieved the rank of 7th largest freight forwarder last month. “As a leading importer on the TPEB lane, Canada is critical to North American trade and Flexport’s growth strategy, especially today amidst ever-changing international trade relationships,” said Anders Schulze, VP and GM of Flexport Northwest. “Today’s news is an important next step in our mission to make global trade easy for everyone.”

In an interview with LM, Schulze added that Canada’s Prince Rupert Port Authority is also on the radar screen for future expansion in British Columbia.

“With eight trade experts, including four accredited and two licensed customs professionals already in place, our Vancouver office is currently hiring for sales, operations and customs employees to serve existing clients and grow new business,” he said. 

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor

Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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