Forest product shippers could seek Vancouver alternative
Ian May, chairman of the Western Canadian Shippers Association, is warning that exporters of forest products in containers through the Port of Vancouver, B.C., may move their cargo to other ports, switch to using breakbulk vessels, or do both because of the demand for increases in compensation that sparked an ongoing strike.
In a statement, May said forest products account for 80 percent of all export container moves through the port.
"That means up to 25 percent of the current market will go elsewhere, and it won't be back any time soon. In order to secure space on vessels, or at a different port, it is necessary to make long-term volume commitments that lock in the traffic for up to 12 months or more. Each breakbulk vessel can carry the equivalent of 1,000 containers," May explained, "and because it arrives directly by rail, there will be a significant reduction in the need for trucks and drivers. Port Metro Vancouver will take a hit as well. Some members have already signed deals to move cargo through Seattle and Montreal container terminals.
"I can give you a direct quote from one of our larger members," he said. "'We require two basic things of our transportation providers: affordability and reliability.'"
About 1,800 container truckers have walked off the job at Port Metro Vancouver over the past two weeks.
The port said the strike is costing about $885 million a week, according to the Vancouver-based newspaper The Province.
The newspaper quoted Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as telling the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce that the trucker strike is a "big problem," but one that is within the jurisdiction of the provincial government.
"'It is not acceptable to have relatively small numbers of people blocking what is important trade for a range of British Columbian and Canadian businesses,'" he was quoted as saying.
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