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PNW shippers face delays on Vancouver, Prince Rupert congestion
American Shipper
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Shippers in the Pacific Northwest will face delays of up to two weeks on some trans-Pacific services to Vancouver and Prince Rupert in September, generated by port congestion and nagging rail-car shortages at the Canadian gateways.

Ocean Network Express (ONE) late last week confirmed in customer advisories that vessels in THE Alliance’s PN4 services to the Canadian gateways that had been scheduled to arrive last week and this week have been pushed back eight days to two weeks. Schedule disruptions are also taking place on the PN3 and PN 1 services, according to the ONE customer advisory.

Since some Pacific Northwest services include calls at the Northwest Seaport Alliance of Seattle-Tacoma, those ports will be caught up in the delays in Canada, but the US gateway is not experiencing congestion, an NWSA spokesman said.

The rail issues in Canada are tied to month-long dock worker strikes at the Port of Montreal that d a backlog of containers in Montreal and Halifax and tied up rail cars in eastern Canada. The Canadian National Railway’s ability to reposition intermodal rail cars to Canada’s Pacific Northwest ports was compromised, J.J. Ruest, CN’s president and CEO, told last month.

The Hyundai Brave, scheduled to call at Prince Rupert on Aug. 24, will now arrive on Sept. 2, according to the ONE customer advisory. That pushes back the call in Vancouver from Aug. 31 to Sept. 14. The Hyundai Tokyo, scheduled to arrive on Sept. 8, has been delayed until Sept. 21.

A spokesman for HMM told that vessel departures from Asia have been set back by severe weather in Busan, South Korea. The voyages are being further delayed by congestion in Prince Rupert. Additional delays are expected in Vancouver in the coming weeks due to terminal congestion caused by the rail backup, the HMM spokesman said.

Also, some vessels arriving at Vancouver the past few weeks sat at anchor awaiting berthing space. “We’ve had a handful of container vessels go to anchor for a short period before going to berth,” said port spokesman Arpen Rana, who added that high container volumes this summer are contributing to the congestion.

Summer cargo surge compounds congestion problems
Canada’s railcar shortages and port congestion come as the Pacific Northwest gateways are experiencing a spike in imports from Asia. July was Vancouver’s busiest month of the year so far, with 303,559 laden and empty TEU handled at Canada’s largest port. That was up from 275,171 TEU in June, according to the port’s website.

Prince Rupert spokesman Brian Friesen said cargo volumes have been exceptionally strong the past two months due to scheduled liner services and calls by extra-loader vessels. Vessels calling at Prince Rupert have been delayed by approximately one week on average in order to match inbound volume with terminal capacity and rail car supply, he said.

However, CN is providing additional capacity to accommodate the volume surge, so railcar dwell times have returned to the normal two to three days. “We expect steady improvement to the vessel schedule through September, Friesen said.

Railcar dwell times in Vancouver have been greater than usual over the past month. According to the port’s website, CN’s rail cars on Friday had an average dwell time of more than seven days at the Vanterm terminal, five to seven days at Centerm, three to five days at Deltaport, and up to three days at Fraser Surrey Docks. By comparison, rail container dwell times in Vancouver this spring were three days or less.

An importer of home improvement products told Monday his shipments through Prince Rupert have been slowed for five to eight days, experiencing both ocean and landside delays.

Julia Kuzeljevich, public affairs manager at the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association, said that despite the strong import demand and higher rail container dwell times on Canada’s Pacific Coast, CIFF members have not expressed serious concerns. She said the elevated dwell times at Vancouver and Prince Rupert are expected to last into mid-September.

Some Pacific Northwest services call in Seattle-Tacoma after leaving Canada. Vessels in those services have been off-schedule in recent weeks, said Northwest Seaport Alliance spokesman Peter McGraw.

“So far it hasn’t greatly impacted terminal operations, but some terminals are seeing a big spike in volume this week because of these off-proforma vessels,” McGraw said.

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