Goods still flowing through northern B.C, despite pandemic slowdown

The COVID-19 has caused a slowdown of the global economy but, despite that, cargo volumes moving through the Port of Prince Rupert are on a record pace.

In 2019 the port had its best year to date, moving 29.9 million tonnes of cargo. During the first four months of 2020, 12.6 million tonnes of goods shipped through Prince Rupert – up nine per cent compared to last year, a statement issued by the port on Tuesday said.

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“As the Port of Prince Rupert continues to grow and expand the cargo moving through the gateway, we have witnessed firsthand how vital a diverse port complex is,” port authority president Shaun Stevenson said in a press release. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created global economic uncertainty, and through this challenging situation, the Prince Rupert gateway has not only remained fluid, but year-to-date volumes are above last year’s. This reinforces why the Prince Rupert Port Authority and our partners are working to diversify the Port of Prince Rupert and further increase our resiliency as a gateway.”

The biggest increase has been at Ridley Terminals, a bulk cargo terminal handling exports of metallurgical and thermal coal, petroleum coke and liquefied petroleum gas. Cargo volumes at Ridley have increased 39 per cent compared to 2019.

The new propane export terminal at Ridley Island has contributed to the growth of port operations, the port authority reported.

The strong global demand for wood pellets has prompted 24 per cent growth in volume at Pinnacle Renewable Energy's pellet loading facility at Westview Terminal.

Container traffic at the port has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the port seeing a 12 per cent decrease in the first four months of 2020 compared to the same period last year. May saw the biggest hit, with container volumes down 37 per cent from May 2019.

Projects to expand the capability and capacity of the port are underway, including projects to expand transloading capacity for both exported and imported goods.

"There is nearly $1 billion in capital expansion either underway or planned to advance over the upcoming year in the growth and expansion of the Port of Prince Rupert,” Stevenson said. “This not only a represents a significant economic impact and stimulus through the construction phase, but expands and diversifies Canada’s capacity to support export industries and grow international trade.”

According to statistics released by the port, $50 billion in goods moved through the port last year. That activity generated $1.5 billion in economic activity in the north and supported 3,600 direct jobs in the supply chain, paying $481 million in annual wages.

“The efforts of the Port of Prince Rupert’s workforce and their employers to make this happen deserve a salute,” Stevenson said. “Because of them, the gateway has been able to maintain volumes, activities and employment at close to normal levels.”

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