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Canadian ports seen losing out on ecommerce-related shipments from Asia

By Colin Laughlan
Vancouver – Canadian ports are losing out on ecommerce-related shipments from Asia because we don’t have the technology to facilitate the required international data exchange. “It’s a big loss,” said an international trade data executive (per photo) speaking at the IAPH’s World Ports Conference which wrapped up yesterday in Vancouver.
Vikram Patil, Associate Director of Global e-Trade Services (GeTS) Inc., told Maritime Magazine that with the trade growth in ecommerce during the pandemic, “a lot of ecommerce shipments which are Canada-bound are coming through the U.S. because it’s easier for the shippers or manufacturers in China to send that data and their shipments into the U.S., and then they come to Canada later.”
The commencement of Amazon shipments in November last year to the Port of Everett, Washington, 180 kilometres south of Vancouver, confirms Mr. Patil’s observation. The ecommerce giant began shipping hundreds of containers of Asian-sourced consumer goods through the tiny Port of Everett to avoid the congestion at major west coast ports during the peak traffic of the Christmas season.
Mr. Patil said Canadian systems are not able to handle the ecommerce volumes today. “It gets dribs and drabs only. If you send a million transactions to the Canadian system, there’s no way it can handle that. You have to start sending it the U.S. and slowly bring in that part of the Canadian shipments.”
Mr. Patil, who is also a Senior Project Manager with GeTS’ parent company, Singapore-based Crimsonlogic, a global leader in National Single Window developments, said Canada needs to build a full national trade Single Window, an electronic platform that integrates Customs clearance and other government agencies with data from shippers, freight forwarders and customers brokers.
“Compared to all the Single Windows across the globe, Canada’s Single Window is basically an ID system. The difference between a true Single Window is quite vast – where all the stakeholders, all the entities, are integrated into a single system,” he said.
Mr. Patil also had advice for the Canadian government which is currently in trade negotiations with countries in south east Asia. “ Any of the trade agreements are talking about the physical movement of ships and cargo but we are in a digital world. Digital platforms need to be part of the trade agreements,” he said. “For example, when you are talking about trade negotiations with ASEAN countries, the first step you should be talking about is connecting Single Windows and making data exchange a part of the trade agreement as well.”