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UBC Sauder School of Business Comm 445 class had a good day yesterday. Alison from Norden and Sharlene from Colley West gave the soon-to-be grads a good lesson on a day in the life of a ship operator and a ship agent! This is a part of the local shipping industry’s ongoing initiative to recruit talent into our amazing business and to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. The class had many excellent and well-thought-out questions.

Along with the BC Chamber of Shipping’s recently named President Bonnie Gee, executives at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, and the multiple terminals in the Port of Vancouver now being run by women, we are seeing more and more examples of women making their mark in the traditionally male-dominated maritime industry. Thanks to Professor Maroney for supporting our efforts and allowing us to engage the class

Moth Mania!

March 1 marked the annual kick off to the touring season for the Flighted Spongy Moth Complex (the artist formerly known as Asian Gypsy Moth) across North America.

Vessel owners are reminded that any of their vessels that have been in a high risk port in Asia (all of Japan, Republic of Korea, and China, north of Shanghai) during the current or previous high risk periods (summer months) for FSMC will be required to provide an official inspection report (or phytosanitary certificate) from a government-certified inspection company prior to entry in Canadian waters. For a complete breakdown on applicable ports and their high risk periods please see here.

The high risk season for Western Canada runs through September 15 so get your tickets soon.


Wolverine Terminal To Meet Bunker Needs In Prince Rupert

The Wolverine bunker facility in Prince Rupert is finally looking to commence operations in June of this year.

Wolverine’s bunker barge will have an overall capacity of 4,500 MT across ten heated and segregated tanks. They will be able to supply both VLSFO and LSMGO with pump rates of 600 MT and 200 MT per hour respectively and will be able to deliver alongside any of Prince Rupert’s terminals and inner harbour anchorages.

This will provide a much-needed option for ship owners to provide bunkers in Prince Rupert and avoid costly and time-consuming vessel deviations to Vancouver or US PNW ports to get their fuel.

For more information on Wolverine’s terminal setup and barge operations, please see here.

Port of Vancouver Export Volumes Enjoy Record Year

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority released their 2023 cargo statistics on March 23 and the numbers were in the main, encouraging. Overall cargo volumes through the Port of Vancouver for last year increased 6%, with a record 150.4 million metric tonnes (MMT) moving through the port. Notably, bulk and containerized exports, auto imports and cruise all saw growth, including near-record grain exports, while container imports decreased.

Per the VFPA’s release, “Almost as much cargo moved through the Port of Vancouver in 2023 as moved through Canada’s next five largest ports combined, while the port handled North America’s most diversified range of cargo—including bulk, containers, breakbulk and automobiles, as well as overseeing cruise.”

Bulk exports were the big winner in 2023 with an overall increase of 13% from 2022, to record a record 91.5 MMT shipped. This included significant increases in grain, sulphur, coal, and petroleum product volumes.

The nine grain terminals within the Port of Vancouver exported 14.7 MMT of wheat to 38 different countries, a 52% year-over-year increase, while canola exports increased 36% to 7.0 MMT and specialty crops grew 30% to 4.0 MMT. Canadian grain export volumes increased sharply in 2023 after a bumper crop season which was preceded by a drought-affected season.

Key Statistics from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority:

Overall cargo was a record 150.4 MMT, up 6% compared to 2022. The previous record cargo volume moved by Port of Vancouver terminals was 147.1 MMT in 2018. In 2022, port terminals handled 141.4 MMT.

Export volumes were up 12% year-over-year at a record 102.3 MMT, including bulk exports increasing by 13% to hit a record 91.5 MMT.

Dry bulk increased 11% to 99.8 MMT—led by increases in grain (39%), sulphur (11%) and coal (7%). Potash volumes were down 11% compared to 2022, at 8.9 MMT.

Liquid bulk increased 7% to 9.8 MMT, with petroleum products growing 12% while canola oil was down 7%.

Container volumes at the Port of Vancouver decreased 12% to 3.1 million twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEU. Imports (laden inbound) decreased 13% to 1.6 million TEU, while exports (laden outbound) increased 7% to 755,000 TEU.  Empty container volumes were down 24% at 770,000 TEU.

Cruise vessel calls increased 8% to 332, with a record 1.24 million passenger visits (up 53% compared to 2022).

Breakbulk volumes decreased 7% to 18.5 MMT, with foreign breakbulk down 25% to 2.0 MMT.

Potential Strike or Lockout Threatens Canadian Railways

The Teamster Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), the union representing over 9,000 Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) engineers, conductors, and yard workers in Canada, has announced they will hold a strike vote from April 8 to May 1, as the union and management for both companies remain far apart on new contracts.

After being unable to reach agreements during initial talks last fall, federal mediators were brought in on March 1 to help with negotiations. Two of the key outstanding issues are CN and CPKC’s desire to move away from the traditional mileage-based pay system for train and engine crews and replace it with an hourly wage system and the establishment of predictable work schedules for train crew to align with Transport Canada’s Duty and Rest Period Rules introduced last year.

During this conciliation period over the next month, both sides are expected to continue meeting to try and reach a negotiated settlement. Combined, CN and CPKC own and operate over 75% of Canada’s rail network. Separate collective bargaining agreements between each respective company and the TCRC expired at the end of 2023.

After the challenges faced by our transportation and shipping industries of the past several years; the natural disasters in Western Canada, a global pandemic, and other labour disruptions, the last thing we need now is further labour unrest and uncertainty.

A strike of this size and nature, even if only for a short period, would likely cause significant disruptions to Canada’s recovering supply chain. And while grain cargo, previously deemed an essential service by the Federal government, would still continue to see movement on the rails, slower and fewer deliveries to the West Coast would be a certainty.

If the strike vote passes, the earliest potential date for a walkout or lockout on CN and CPKC in Canada is May 22, 2024.

Rest in Peace, Rick Barlow

It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the passing of our company founder and former CEO, Richard (Rick) Barlow. Rick passed away January 28, 2024 surrounded by his family, after a brave, near 4 year battle with cancer. Rick had an amazing career and was a huge contributor to the local shipping market, serving as a board member for the Pacific Pilotage Authority, the BC Chamber of Shipping, and the Vancouver Grain Exchange, to name just a few. It is impossible to list all of his contributions and achievements here but he certainly raised the bar for what it is to be a ship agent and a responsible businessman. Our love, support, and sympathies go out to his family. We will miss you Rick.

All Women Tugboat Crew Makes Historic Run up B.C. Coast


SAMM Towage, a tugboat service provider operating in British Columbia, marked a historic moment for the maritime industry with its first all-female tugboat crew on a journey from Prince Rupert to Stewart. Captain Hailey McIntyre and deckhand Ocean Rutherford embarked on the 12-hour voyage, assisting with vessel docking and undocking upon arrival. This milestone reflects the coastal industry’s openness to diversity, offering many opportunities for those interested in pursuing careers in the marine industry. SAMM Towage Canada’s director of operations, Brook Walker, expressed pride in celebrating this unique occurrence in the company’s 70 years of history, highlighting the company’s commitment to inclusivity. Recruiting local mariners is becoming increasingly difficult and we are working with the Western Marine Community Coalition members and governments in evolving and executing a workforce recruitment and retention strategy.

Courtesy of BC Chamber of Shipping

Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Delayed Again…

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project to Westridge Marine Terminal in Vancouver Harbour looks set to face yet another delay in completion due to “technical issues”.

In a statement released to their website on January 29, Trans Mountain advised that it had once again run into construction challenges in B.C. and may have to further push back the estimated completion date of the first quarter, of 2024.

The project, bought by the Canadian Federal Government in 2018, in what was a bit of a bailout for Kinder Morgan at the time, has encountered numerous construction delays, faced strong environmental opposition, and of course, just like any time the government is paying, has rung up huge cost overruns. The budget has in fact already gone close to six times over the original estimate, from $5.4 billion to $30.9 billion

When the expansion is finally completed, tanker traffic from the Westridge Marine Terminal is expected to quadruple, loading up to approximately 34 tankers per month. The size of tankers calling at Westridge will not change, however, with the largest tankers remaining Aframax-size vessels.

This substantial increase in tanker traffic going into and out of Westridge is also going to lead to delays for some other vessels loading east of 2nd Narrows in Burrard Inlet. As the Vancouver Harbour Master has elected to prioritize the movement of tankers vessels, we will inevitably see sulphur and potash vessels that load at Pacific Coast Terminals being shut out of transit tidal windows through 2nd Narrows, in order to make way for the tankers.

Canadian Grain Commission Release Quality Results For 2023

The Canadian Grain Commission has this week released their full quality reports for CWRS, CWAD, and CPSR wheats for 2023.

The quality of the CWRS crop was found to be excellent for the year, with more than 97 percent of the crop being in the top two grades. Full  quality reports are now available for canola, barley, peas, and the other major crops.

Among the highlights: protein content average is the same as last year, but higher than the 10-year average and barley exhibited excellent average germination energy.

CGC have also revised their report formats which now feature overall quality summaries, more visual charts & graphs and additional resources.

Full CGC reports available here.

Port of Prince Rupert Exports Decrease in 2023


Courtesy of Prince Rupert Port Authority

The Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) has just released their annual cargo figures revealing that 23.5 million tonnes of cargo moved through the Port of Prince Rupert in 2023, five percent less than overall volumes in 2022.

This marks a third consecutive year of volume decline and reflects the challenges of shifting global shipping routes, soft demand for imports, and competition with other North American trade gateways for discretionary cargo. However, despite the decline in volumes, significant milestones were reached in 2023 that support the evolution of the trade gateway to become more competitive, resilient, and sustainable in the near and long term.

DP World Prince Rupert’s Fairview Container Terminal saw a 32 percent decrease in volumes in 2023. This significant drop is due to a broader decline in North American intermodal imports and strong competition on Transpacific trade routes. Terminal performance was also impacted by labour action that halted operations for 13 days in Q3.

Demand for western Canadian energy products was strong in 2023, with AltaGas’ Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal shipping nearly 2 million tonnes, a 13 percent increase over 2022. Pembina’s Watson Island LPG Bulk Terminal entered its third year of operations, handling close to 494,000 tonnes, an eight percent decrease year-over-year. Drax’s Westview Wood Pellet Terminal shipped 1.3 million tonnes to markets in Europe and Asia.

Trigon Pacific Terminals also saw a strong year, moving 8.8 million tonnes of dry bulk product through its terminal, including 5.4 million tonnes of metallurgical coal. Shipments of that product saw a 51 percent jump over 2022.

A strong harvest year contributed to Prince Rupert Grain Terminal shipping 3,595.044 tonnes of Western Canadian agricultural products, an 11 percent rise over the 3,226,356 tonnes shipped in 2022.