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

Federal government actions hurt Sooke hatchery fundraising efforts

Funding denial comes on the heels of fishing closures

Stop work order at Sooke salmon hatchery devastates volunteers

CRD steps in as some volunteers give up their efforts

Oak Bay researcher’s Canadian English dictionary goes to print

How an unknown American hobbyist sparked a Canadian dictionary

Jesse Roper learns to create fire in the wild, in Sacred Knowledge web series

Ragnarock Studios production shares primitive skills with Islanders

Island athlete goes from hoop dreams to icy track

Cyrus Gray hopes to punch his ticket to Olympics in bobsleigh

Police release photos of suspect in daytime sex assault at Vancouver woman’s home

A young woman, in hers 20s, was followed home by the man, before he violently attacked her inside

Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals

Leonard has 27 points, 17 boards to lead Toronto past Milwaukee

Third person charged in death of B.C. teen Bhavkiran Dhesi

Inderdeep Kaur Deo facing charge of accessory after the fact to murder

SOOKE HISTORY: Pemberton Pool namesake remains a mystery

Historian believes it was possibly named after surveyor Joseph Despard Pemberton

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

Local politicians shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job, survey suggests

Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

Raptors currently lead the playoff series 3-2, and a win Saturday would vault them into NBA finals

PHOTOS: First responders in Fernie rescue baby owl who fell from nest

The baby owl’s inability to fly back to its nest prompted a rescue by first responders

Most Read