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

Annual Festival of the Arts wraps up with showcase evening

Students performed award-winning instrumental and piano compositions, songs, and poetry

Interior Health to offer clinics at schools to catch-up on measles vaccinations

Interior Health to hold clinics at schools offering measles immunization catch-up program

PSO girl’s soccer team places 12th in Hope tournament

The team was short players throughout its first tournament with new coach Nicole Weir

Ecosystem restoration burn planned for Churn Creek area

The BC Wildfire Service will conduct the 100-hectare burn sometime between April 17 and May 17

Gas prices spike in northern B.C. ahead of the long weekend

Fuel went up 17 cents overnight in Prince Rupert

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Cache Creek council votes to rejoin local transit system

Details need to be worked out, but hopes are that change can be expedited

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Police pursue pesky porker on Vancouver Island

‘This was allegedly not the pig’s first escape’

Westjet tries again to dismiss proposed class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination

Former flight attendant claims airline broke contractual promise to create harassment-free workplace

Man airlifted to hospital after apparent hunting incident in East Kootenay

The man was in stable condition when he was flown out of Fairmont Hot Springs to a Calgary hospital

Most Read