Storm of the century cuts off traffic to Canada’s biggest port in latest hit to supply chain
Flooding has halted rail services to and from the Port of Vancouver and also shut all main routes by road
Traffic at Canada’s largest port has been cut off by what local officials are calling the storm of the century, the latest snag to hit the North American supply chain.
Days of torrential rain have pelted British Columbia, triggering floods and landslides that have blocked the tracks of the nation’s two major railways and washed away parts of its main east-west road artery, the Trans-Canada Highway.
It’s the second time in less than five months that British Columbia — a major conduit to Asian markets and home to one of the busiest ports on the West Coast — has been paralyzed by extreme weather: wildfires and a record heat wave choked the region in the summer. This time the disruptions threaten the movement of goods ahead of the busy winter holiday season.
Flooding has halted rail services to and from the Port of Vancouver and also shut all main routes by road, the port said in a statement. It’s not yet known when Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and Canadian National Railway Co. will be able to re-open their lines, it said. Nearly 1,000 rail cars carrying grain are idled in the Vancouver corridor, according to estimates from Ag Transport Coalition.
There is enough grain at port terminal elevators to keep exports moving for a “few days and perhaps a week,” said Mark Hemmes, president of Quorum Corp., a grain transportation monitoring company in Edmonton, Alberta. “After that, it’s about the wait.”
Port terminals rely largely on railways to deliver containers to load on ships, as well as transport imported and exported goods. “When the cycle of inbound rail cars stops, that’s when congestion starts to build at the port terminals,” Hemmes said.
Canadian Pacific said its track remains closed near Hope, about 150 kilometres (93 miles) east of Vancouver. Canadian National said multiple mudslides and washouts have damaged tracks and that repairs are progressing, but that outbound and inbound traffic in Vancouver is still affected.