Good news, bad news in Port of Prince Rupert's May numbers

John Crawford

There's good news and bad news in the latest cargo volume figures released by the Prince Rupert Port Authority.

The good news is that, in spite of the COVID-19 situation, overall cargo volume rose by nine percent in May, with over 12.6-million tonnes handled year-to-date.

Leading the way was strong dry bulk volumes for both the month and year-to-date.

Ridley Terminals is also having a good year, with volumes up 68% compared with May of 2019.

The numbers have been boosted by the addition of propane volume from the AltaGas Ridley Island Export Teminal, which came online just over a year ago, as well as  strong demand for wood pellets from Westview Terminal.  

[FILE PHOTO - Port of Prince Rupert   -- PRPA]

On the down side, the pandemic has severely impacted the intermodal sector, thanks to a sharp downturn in trans-Pacific trade. 

Volume at the Fairview container terminal has experienced a 12% decline year-to-date, and throughput at Fairview is down a whopping 37% from May of last year.

President and CEO Shaun Stevenson says the numbers underscore the importance of having a diverse port complex, as global uncertainty grips the economy.  


PRINCE RUPERT, BRITISH COLUMBIA – May cargo volumes reveal that the Port of Prince Rupert’s performance remains strong during a challenging economic situation and illustrate that a diverse port complex is critical to ensuring resiliency.

Overall, the Port of Prince Rupert’s cargo volume is up 9% with 12,615,661 tonnes of cargo handled year-to-date, led by strong dry bulk volumes both for the month and year-to-date.

Ridley Terminals is experiencing the biggest growth in volume, up 68% from May 2019 volumes and up 39% year-to-date. The addition of propane volume from the AltaGas Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal, which has been operating for just over a year, has also contributed to the steady overall performance of the Port. As well, with strong demand for wood pellets, Westview Terminal is experiencing growth of 24% year-to-date.

The intermodal sector has been the most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, with a decrease in the movement of cargo on the entire trans-Pacific trade route. Volume at Fairview Terminal reveals a 12% decline year-to-date, though laden volumes have only decreased 6%. Throughput at Fairview Terminal declined 37% from May 2019, a significant decrease in volumes and employment hours that reflects the impact of containment measures in North America as a result of COVID-19. The Port of Prince Rupert is an important trade gateway on the trans-Pacific and as such, is not immune from volatile market conditions.

The Port of Prince Rupert is unique in that much of the cargo handled through Fairview Terminal is entirely discretionary and can move through other west coast ports; as a result, the Prince Rupert Gateway relies on its ability to move goods with speed, reliability and reach to provide shippers advantage in their supply chains.

“As the Port of Prince Rupert continues to grow and expand the cargo moving through the gateway, we have witnessed firsthand how vital a diverse port complex is,” said Shaun Stevenson, President and CEO of the Prince Rupert Port Authority. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created global economic uncertainty, and through this challenging situation, the Prince Rupert gateway has not only remained fluid, but year-to-date volumes are above last year’s. This reinforces why the Prince Rupert Port Authority and our partners are working to diversify the Port of Prince Rupert and further increase our resiliency as a gateway.”

PRPA continues to advance critical gateway infrastructure projects, including the construction on the Fairview-Ridley Connector Corridor, and project development work for the Ridley Island Export Logistics Platform to create large scale export transloading capacity in Prince Rupert. As well, the Metlakatla Development Corporation continues to advance its work on the Metlakatla Import Logistics Park on South Kaien Island, which will enable transload of import containerized cargoes and warehouse operations for import supply chains. These logistics developments are critical to ensuring resiliency as an intermodal gateway and to add value to supply chains. Keeping these projects moving forward will help the Prince Rupert gateway stay on the leading edge throughout the economic downturn and for the future while providing a much needed economic stimulus to assist in Canada’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

“There is nearly $1 billion in capital expansion either underway or planned to advance over the upcoming year in the growth and expansion of the Port of Prince Rupert,” said Stevenson. “This not only a represents a significant economic impact and stimulus through the construction phase but expands and diversifies Canada’s capacity to support export industries and grow international trade.” 

The Port of Prince Rupert has worked diligently to ensure  the continued global movement of goods happens safely and efficiently, and the ongoing delivery of essential services that are critical to North America’s response to COVID-19. Together, the 6,200 people working in the gateway industry in northern British Columbia are maintaining strong supply chains. With over $50 billion in cargo being handled at the Port of Prince Rupert each year, generating $1.5 billion in economic activity in northern British Columbia, the Port of Prince Rupert is also ensuring that critical Canadian industries like forestry, mining, agriculture and natural gas can successfully work through these unprecedented challenges. Maintaining Canada’s export base during this period will be important to the economic recovery in the months and years to come. 

“The efforts of the Port of Prince Rupert’s workforce and their employers to make this happen deserve a salute,” said Stevenson. “Because of them, the gateway has been able to maintain volumes, activities and employment at close to normal levels.”

Review the Port of Prince Rupert’s May cargo volumes:
See the full news release:
The Prince Rupert Port Authority manages the Port of Prince Rupert, Canada's northernmost trade gateway on the west coast. The Port of Prince Rupert anchors one of the fastest and most reliable supply chains between North America and Asia, providing vital infrastructure to support shippers and industries as they move their goods and resources to market. The port handles approximately $50 billion in trade value per year and supports an estimated 3,600 direct supply-chain jobs in northern British Columbia, $481 million in annual wages, and $125.5 million in annual government revenue. In 2019, a record 29.9 million tonnes of cargo moved through the Port of Prince Rupert.
Monika Cote
Manager, Corporate Communications
Prince Rupert Port Authority

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