A decline in the numbers this year due to the pandemic doesn’t mean a proposed container port expansion in Delta won’t be needed, says Vancouver Fraser Port Authority president and CEO Robin Silvester.
The port authority this week released its numbers for mid-year cargo volumes which highlighted how much COVID-19 and other factors have had an impact on business.
Looking at the first six months of this year, overall cargo through the port decreased by 1.1 per cent over the same time last year, according to the report.
Several sectors experienced declines as a result of weather conditions, trade challenges, cancelled sailings, railroad blockades and the global pandemic, according to the port, which noted container volume was down 7.7 per cent from mid-year 2019 to 1.6 million 20-foot equivalents, or TEUs.
Despite an overall decrease in cargo moving through the port, new mid-year records were set for bulk and containerized grain, as well as total foreign tonnage and foreign exports, the port notes.
Noting these are unprecedented times in Canada and across the globe as the pandemic is causing economic impacts, making short term predictions difficult, Silvester said that as seen from previous economic downturns, trade is generally well-positioned to rebound strongly.
As far as container trade, it’s been relatively stable and they are already seeing monthly volumes recover, and the demand for goods shipped in containers continues to be projected to grow going forward, Silvester noted.
“We were looking back at 2008-2009 when we had the downturn with the global financial crises. It’s an interesting comparison because in 2009 container volume was down 15 per cent and in the half-year of 2020, after what was arguably a bigger economic crises with more global reach, container volume was only down seven per cent. Just in the month of July, it’s actually one per cent above July of last year. It’s actually been a remarkably muted downturn given the scale of the economic challenge that the world is facing. So, it’s showing that’s it’s the reverse to the argument Terminal 2 is not needed, because even in the biggest downturn that we’ve all lived through, container volumes have been modestly affected and are already starting to come back to levels from last year,” he told the Optimist.
“Canada is fundamentally a trading nation and nothing says that we will see trade is going to be fundamentally any different or population growth will be any different, or long-term economic growth is going to be fundamentally anything different. So, I would say Terminal 2 is as necessary as it’s ever been and we really need to keep moving forward,” he added.
The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project is a proposed new three-berth terminal which, if approved, would add nearly 50 per cent more container capacity.
Now undergoing a review by the federal government, which is expected to make a decision later this year, T2 is designed to meet Canada’s long-term trade demands, well beyond the mid-to late-2030s, the port notes.
It’s a “critical generational project” along with an expansion at the Centerm facility to meet the forecasted demand for trade of goods in containers, the port authority states.