Forestry and legumes shippers say railways prioritized other commodities

Companies say they lost millions on Port of Vancouver shipments

Canada’s forestry and legume industries say the country’s two major railways prioritized other commodities over their shipments to the Port of Vancouver late last year, costing companies millions amid surging demand for Canadian goods abroad.

Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. imposed embargoes in the Vancouver area in November and December that hurt pulp and paper mills, sawmills and exporters of legumes such as dry beans and lentils, according to industry groups.

Embargoes temporarily stop or restrict traffic related to certain customers, goods or loading points and can cause missed shipments or backed-up supply chains.

READ MORE: Pulp mill struggles long-term, Premier John Horgan says

Derek Nighbor, head of the Forest Products Association of Canada, warned the railways against playing “commodity whack-a-mole.”

“There were only a few commodities that seemed to be caught in the crosshairs,” he said Monday. “We need to figure out exactly why these embargoes and stoppages are happening.”

Three sets of embargoes affected forestry products in Vancouver and nearby Squamish, B.C., and marked the second year in a row of frequent stoppages, Nighbor said. He claimed the lost sales, rebooked routes and additional storage cost his sector $500 million in 2018.

Last week, the Canadian Transportation Agency flexed its newly enhanced authority under the 2018 Transportation Modernization Act and launched an investigation into whether rail companies are fulfilling their obligations following industry complaints, with hearings set for next week.

In an email, CN acknowledged the recent congestion on the West Coast. It pointed to harsh weather and the intricate supply network that feeds into Canada’s busiest port.

“CN acted swiftly and efficiently to serve its customers during this period and played its role in moving record volumes through Vancouver’s complex and multi-commodity supply chain,” spokesman Jonathan Abecassis said in an email.

CP cited record grain shipments and a busier port in recent months as global trade tensions work in Canada’s favour, with a Chinese tariff on U.S. soybeans and retaliatory European tariffs on U.S. corn spurring more Canadian exports.

Both railways have said they will co-operate with the investigation.

In the Vancouver area, CN moved record volumes of freight in November, December and, to date, January. The Montreal-based company invested in rail cars, track doubling and expanded rail yards — particularly between Chicago and the West Coast — to the tune of $3.5 billion over the past year, 30 per cent more than its three-year average. It has plans to keep building in 2019.

Calgary-based CP, meanwhile, aims to have 1,000 more grain cars in service by this spring, following CN’s order for 1,000 hoppers last May.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Heart of Our City: Kaps off to Colleen Hermanson

Colleen Hermanson began working in social services as early as 1968

Rupert Lawn and Garden awards build contract for new site to Prince Rupert firm

Garden centre also set to announce temporary location while construction takes place

Esthetically pleasing program coming to Prince Rupert

Coast Mountain College is rolling out a new esthetics program in November

All Nations Driving Academy gets $360K boost from province

Terrace-based driving school bridges gap in services for remote northwest B.C. communities

Skeena Watershed reopened for recreational pink and coho

Four sections and tributaries remain closed

The Northern View Cannery Road Race is only one month away

Northern View takes on scenic half-marathon, 10k, 5k, and 1k kid fun

The Northern View announces inaugural Tyee Fishing Derby in Prince Rupert

More than $7,000 up for grabs for biggest legal salmon and halibut

The Northern View 2019 Readers Choice

It’s that time of year again! Vote online or at the Prince Rupert office before noon on Aug. 30

Toronto activist calling on federal parties to nominate more black candidates

Fewer than 20 black Canadians have been nominated so far, including some Liberal MPs seeking re-election

Portland, Oregon, awaits right-wing rally, counter protests

Patriot Prayer’s Joey Gibson surrendered Friday on an arrest warrant for felony rioting

Kraft Heinz brand baby food recalled in B.C. due to possibility of insects

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the product should not be consumed

First Nations women finally to be treated equally under Indian Act: Bennett

Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action thanked the feds

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

Most Read