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Mounting impact of CN Rail blockades on ports of Montreal and Vancouver


2020-02-18

 

As blockades paralyzing virtually the entire CN Rail network by indigenous groups opposed to a large pipeline project in British Columbia entered an 11th day, the negative impact was mounting on Canada's two leading ports on the west and east coasts, Vancouver and Montreal.

Prime Minister Trudeau, who cut short a trip to the Caribbean to hold an emergency cabinet meeting today (Feb. 17), was under growing pressure from business and political circles to force an end the widely-perceived illegal blockades. But he has been so far reluctant to do so, putting his faith in negotiations, affirming that Canada is not a country "where politicians get to tell the police what to do in operational matters."

Emerging from the cabinet meeting in mid-afternoon Monday as well as talks with premiers and indigenous leaders, Mr. Trudeau said his government was committed to finding a quick and peaceful resolution. But he offered no details.

"We calculate that there are today between 60 and 70 ships waiting off the West Coast as a result of the supply chain disruptions," indicated Robert Lewis-Manning, President of the Vancouver-based Chamber of Shipping.

"It is regrettable," he told Maritime Magazine, "that Transport Canada has still not convened the supply chain partners. "The conflict has underlined the vulnerability of the supply chain. A broader issue is the protection of the supply chain."

 

 

At the Port of Montréal, Communications Director Mélanie Nadeau, noted that "in the bulk sector goods and commodities from the west of the country transiting by rail are affected and we have not received one (shipment) for about five days (for example:grain)."

"In the container sector, containers transiting through the CN network and intended for export are also down."

Ms. Nadeau said several ships were currently docked at the port and more were expected. "But despite the fact that we are an intermodal platform offering other options to our customers (including the possibility of trucking to move their goods), some import containers are starting to accumulate at our (terminal) operators. This can become problematic from a logistical point of view if the situation continues for the next few days."

Delays are reportedly affecting cargo movements at the Port of Halifax, where CN offers the sole rail service, as well as the Port of Prince Rupert, where last Friday cargo-handling revived after the lifting of a blockade at New Hazelton between Prince George and Prince Rupert.


 


 
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