Cosco Shipping Lines sends four of its cargo vessels to Vancouver to alleviate congestion at the Port of Prince Rupert. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Port experiences growing pains, causing Cosco and Maersk to divert cargo south

Vessels will go through Vancouver terminal to alleviate congestion at the Port of Prince Rupert

Cosco Shipping Lines and Maersk have diverted four of their vessels from the Port of Prince Rupert to Vancouver’s terminal after experiencing what the company called “major congestion” due to the expansion project.

The port usually boasts its timely movement of cargo through an uncongested terminal with dwell times of an average of two days or less. But in the last couple of weeks, dwell times have grown to three and seven days.

“The number one factor is a surge in import volumes coming through the terminal,” said Kris Schumacher, communications coordinator for the Port of Prince Rupert.

The port authority recently celebrated the completion of the Fairview expansion project, and import volumes have soared. August was a record month for the terminal that handled more than 875,000 tonnes of cargo, a 37 per cent increase from the same month in the previous year.

“That’s a lot of containers coming through, and the incident that we had down there, which stopped work and then Labour Day following directly after that set things back a bit,” Schumacher said.

The ‘incident’ halted operations at Fairview Terminal on Sept. 3 until Sept. 5 after 11 employees experienced symptoms of respiratory and eye irritation in the container yard and were sent to the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital. Few other details were released from the terminal operator, DP World.

RELATED: FAIRVIEW TERMINAL HALTS OPERATIONS AFTER INCIDENT INVOLVING 11 WORKERS

On Sept. 13, Cosco advised its customers that “in order to alleviate congestion at the terminal and to reduce the impact on the movement of your cargo” that four vessels originally destined for Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton and Calgary via Prince Rupert will be diverted to DP World’s Vancouver Centerm terminal first. This is a temporary fix until the port’s terminal expansion work is completed.

Although the port celebrated the completion of its Phase 2 expansion project on Aug. 29, there are still some on-going construction activities that have caused backlog, according to Cosco’s customer advisory. Another contributing factor to the congestion is that CN is adding more dock rail track.

The port is working with CN, DP World, its customers and shippers to bring dwell times back down to its standard of three days or less. Schumacher said they hope by the end of the week that they’ll be back down to dwell times of four days and to improve from there.

For the next four weeks, the four cargo vessels, Xin Ou Zhou, CSCL America, Xin Fei Zhou and CSCL Oceania will go through Vancouver’s terminal to save transportation time.

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