Canadian shippers see sailing reliability suffer as West Coast congestion ripples north


Mark Szakonyi, January 28, 2015,

Many Canadian importers are receiving shipments two to three weeks longer than usual and exporters are missing sailing windows because of container vessels delays at U.S. West Coast ports are rippling north.


Canadian shippers “are loading in Asia and expecting a shipment in 30 days and then, oh, well, it’s stuck at an American port for 10 to 12 days,” said Ruth Snowden, executive director of the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association. She said some delays have been as severe as two to three weeks.


Export shipments are also being delayed out of Port Metro Vancouver because some carriers have shortened loading windows in order to try to restore their schedule reliability, she said Wednesday at the Cargo Logistics Canada conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.


Missed export loadings, resulting from shortened loading windows or even cancelled sailings, causes shipment to pile up at terminals and prevent other export loads from getting into facilities, she added. The impact of the delays are worse than they need to be because some carriers aren’t communicating to shippers how far behind schedule they are, and, sometimes when they do, it’s too late, Snowden said.


“Asia pulp importers are particularly upset, and there’s serious concern that we’ll lose share in that market” because of Canadian exporters’ inability to meet delivery deadlines, Snowden said.


Western Canadian shippers have seen outbound shipments out of Port Metro Vancouver get rolled to later sailings because the surge of U.S. bound shipments adds stress to marine terminals, David Montpetit, chairman of the Western Canadian Shippers’ Coalition, told Most of the coalition members that ship via container are forest exporters to Asia.


Canadian shippers’ pain could deepen further if union and non-union drayage drivers follow through with their threat to strike this week at Port Metro Vancouver like they did in March.  Unifor, the large Canadian labor union, and United Truckers Association, which represents non-union drivers, are expected to announce their decision soon as they were awaiting word from the provincial goverment on whether it would reverse what they say were changes to rules relating to minimum drayage rates that were agreed to in March. The provincial goverment on Wednesday afternoon announced it would make two changes to the drayage system set to take effect Feb. 1, but Unifor and UTA haven’t yet responded to requests for comment on whether they will strike or not.



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