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Double whammy hits Canadian agri-food exporters

Double coup dur pour les exportateurs agroalimentaires canadiens

2020-03-12

 

By Leo Ryan

Editor
Maritime Magazine

 

Severely hit by February's three week Indigenous rail blockades over a pipeline project in British Columbia, the Canadian agri-food industry - a vital pillar of Canada's economy - is being further hammered by the ripple effects of the global coronavirus pandemic. This is no small matter for the world's fifth largest agri-food exporter whose sales abroad reached a record $60 billion in 2019.

If last year was a bumpy road for Canadian agri-food exporters, 2020 is hardly looking much better. Already facing global geopolitical issues, increased protectionism and mounting modernization challenges to remain competitive, Canada's agri-food industry is now grappling with rising gridlocks in its meat and grain supply chains.

Some sources estimate it could take up to six months to eliminate backlogs. The China factor has been the overwhelming catalyst. In January, most factories were shut down across China's provinces in an effort to control the coronavirus epidemic and many remain shuttered today. This led ocean carriers to "blank" sailings  from China to North America.
The crisis for the agri-food exporters has been especially visible on the West Coast, where some 50 vessels remain idle at anchorages at the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert. There they are waiting to load or unload cargo destined for and coming from China-led Asia. In addition,  international logistics companies currently report declines of as much as 85 % of containerized Chinese imports arriving in the Port of Vancouver, Canada's leading Pacific gateway.

Farmers across Canada are concerned not just about moving crops out to markets but receiving vital supplies like fertilizer, seed and propane in order to bring spring planting. Their financial health is also negatively impacted by delays in payment as crops sit in parked freight trains. Last week, Canadian National Railway put this number at the 10,000 rail cars, or the equivalent of more than one million tonnes. This follows a banner year in 2019 for both CN and CP in Canadian grain supply chains "despite the challenging economic and environmental conditions," stated Joan Hardy, CP Vice-President sales and marketing, grain and fertilizers.

According to Wade Sobkowich, Executive Director of the Western Grain Elevator Association, the delays in shipping are costing up to $10 million a day.

Paradoxically enough, strong global demand for Canadian grain generated a new record of 28.3 million tonnes for grain, specialty crops and feed through the Port of Vancouver in 2019. Wheat alone climbed by nearly 16% to 11 million tonnes. The port saw trade with China, its leading partner, fall 14% as China cut wheat and canola shipments from Canada amidst diplomatic tensions. Robin Silvester, president and ceo of the Vancouver Port Authority, is hopeful that a recent mild "thawing" between the U.S. and China could benefit Canadian bulk exports to a certain degree.

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Georgian College unveils new simulator thanks to CSL donation

Le Georgian College dévoile un nouveau simulateur grâce à un don de CSL

2020-03-12

 

 

 

Thanks to a generous donation from Canada Steamship Lines, students in Georgian's marine programs, cadets and working mariners will have access to a new state-of-the art simulator and upgraded on-site systems at the Owen Sound Campus. Canada Steamship Lines, a division of The CSL Group, contributed $540,000 toward the new Advanced Integrated Simulator. Georgian is now one of a few institutions with this capability - and has the only integrated Kongsberg engine/navigator simulator of its kind in Canada.

"This incredible investment by Canada Steamship Lines builds on a rich legacy of continued support," said Kevin Weaver, Vice President Academic, Georgian College. "They're at the forefront of new system development and innovation and have navigated the changing face of the industry since its inception. This is why they are a renowned leader and innovator in the industry - and a perfect partner for Georgian and our highly-respected Marine Program."

Mr. Weaver added that this latest commitment is of significant benefit not only to Georgian, cadets and working mariners, but to the entire region. "It will only further enhance the reputation of this campus and our graduates - and draw in more prospective students and those working in the field who need and want to upgrade their skills."

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Volumes at two busiest ports in US impacted by coronavirus

Les volumes des deux ports les plus occupés des États-Unis sont touchés par le coronavirus


22020-03-11

 

 

SAN PEDRO, Calif. - The Port of Los Angeles moved 544,037 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in February, a 22.9% decrease compared to last year.

"While cargo volumes are important, the coronavirus is first and foremost a public health crisis that needs to be brought under control with the collaboration of governments and medical experts from around the world," said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. "We are more interconnected than ever with our global partners so it's no surprise that Trans-Pacific maritime trade has been significantly impacted."

"As factory production in China remains at low levels, we expect soft volumes in March. Looking ahead to anticipated manufacturing improvements, we will need to return empty containers to Asia and push lingering U.S. export boxes out swiftly," Seroka added. "We're actively working with our supply chain partners to be prepared for a cargo surge once production levels ramp up."

February imports decreased 22.5% to 270,025 TEUs compared to the previous year. Exports decreased 5.7% to 134,468 TEUs. Empty containers declined 35% to 139,544 TEUs. In total, February volumes, also adversely impacted by the Lunar New Year holiday celebrated in Asia, totaled 544,037 TEUs. For the first two months of 2020, total container volumes are 1,350,181 TEUs, down 13% compared to last year.

The Port of Los Angeles is America's premier port and has a strong commitment to developing innovative, strategic and sustainable operations that benefit Southern California's economy and quality of life. North America's leading seaport by container volume and cargo value, the Port of Los Angeles facilitated $276 billion in trade during 2019. San Pedro Bay port complex operations and commerce facilitate one in nine jobs in the five-county Southern California region.


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Port of Thunder Bay well-placed to handle grain backlog

Le port de Thunder Bay est bien placé pour gérer l'arriéré des céréales



2020-03-11

 

 

 

The late opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway's Montreal-Lake Ontario section on April 1 due to high water levels on Lake Ontario affects the whole waterway, but the impact could be limited on the Lake Superior Port of Thunder Bay, indicates Tim Heney, CEO of the Thunder Bay Port Authority. The high water conditions have delayed by some 12 days the opening of the MLO section while the Welland Canal opens on March 24 and the Sault Ste. Marie locks open on March 25.

"We are at the grain end of the Seaway and, in fact, have the capacity to help the western Canadian farmers with the big backlog provoked by the (Indigenous) rail blockades of several weeks," Mr. Heney told Maritime Magazine. He noted that there were still some 50 vessels, many of them grain bulkers, still sitting idle in anchorage at the Port of Vancouver.

He pointed out that there were three Laker vessels in port at Thunder Bay and that most of the Canadian Laker fleet was wintering above the MLO section. Grain bulkers regularly pick up grain at Thunder Bay for delivery to the Port of Quebec and onward shipment on ocean carriers to Europe and other overseas markets.

Last year, Thunder Bay handled 8 million tonnes of grain. Predicting output in 2020 was no easy task, Mr. Heney said - referring to supply chain issues and also to the economic impact worldwide of the coronavirus qualified today as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. "There are so many variables and so much uncertainty at the moment." (photo TBPA)



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AAPA cancels spring conference due to coronavirus pandemic

2020-03-11

 

Due to an abundance of caution and in the best interests for the safety, health and well-being of its many members and supporters in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) today announced the cancellation of its March 17-19 2020 Spring Conference event in Washington, D.C. The AAPA groups together ports from Canada, the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States.
"It's disappointing to cancel this annual port industry conference, particularly since AAPA had planned an excellent agenda with high-ranking government officials, public policy influencers, and business and port authority leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere who were lined up to make presentations and lead discussions on public port challenges, successes and lessons learned that are making national and international news," said AAPA Public Affairs Director Aaron Ellis. "These concerns, however, pale in comparison to the importance of keeping people healthy and assisting authorities in their efforts to contain the virus and get the necessary care and attention to those who need it."

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