British Columbia

Vancouver port CEO warns of coronavirus woes, as China trade continues to ebb

The head of Canada's largest port says the novel coronavirus is eating into trade following a year that saw cargo volumes dip.

China exports account for well over half of freight volume at Canada's Pacific gateway

Shipping containers are pictured at the DP World Ltd. terminal at Port Metro’s Port of Vancouver in Vancouver, British Columbia, May, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The head of Canada's largest port says the novel coronavirus is eating into trade following a year that saw cargo volumes dip.

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority CEO Robin Silvester says the number of cancelled sailings is on the rise as broad swaths of the Chinese economy remain effectively shut down due to the outbreak.

Silvester says if the virus continues to spread, slowdowns could severely dent trade with Korea and Japan, which together with China account for well over half of the freight volume at Canada's Pacific gateway.

The port saw trade with its largest partner fall in 2019, as China cut wheat and canola shipments from Canada amid diplomatic tensions.

People gathered at the Clark Street entrance of the Port of Vancouver blocked access on Saturday Feb. 8, 2020 in solidarity with the Wet'suwe'ten Nation and supporters opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Silvester says mild diplomatic "thawing" between the U.S. and China in recent months could work out well for Canadian cargo.

The CEO is also commending police for enforcing injunctions and responding "carefully" to rolling blockades barring access to the port over the past three weeks, part of demonstrations that have disrupted rail service across the country in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to a natural gas pipeline slated to bisect their traditional territory in northern British Columbia.

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