Port of Vancouver sees record year on petroleum, fertilizer increases

 The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority wants to add a new terminal to increase cargo capacity. credit: VFPA
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority wants to add a new terminal to increase cargo capacity. credit: VFPA

A record volume of cargo moved through the Port of Vancouver during 2018 driven by robust demand from Asia.

Cargo volume at Canada’s largest port reached 147 million tons, a 3.5 percent increase from 2017, itself a record year, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) announced on February 28. The port handled the equivalent of 3.4 million container units, a 3 percent increase.

The port reported large increases in petroleum products (33.3 percent), fertilizer (16.1 percent) and processed foods (17 percent). Exports grew by 1.8 percent, to 115 million tons, while imports increased by 9.8 percent to 31 million tons.

“Frozen desserts are a big one right now going to Asia,” remarked Kent Knisely, an export coordinator with PCB Freight in Surrey, British Columbia.

Knisely estimated that his company moved 400 to 500 containers out of the port during 2018, which included food, vintage cards and equipment. He’s currently in the process of shipping an entire planer factory to Germany, via 80 shipping containers.

The VFPA noted strong demand for Canadian grain, which hit a record 27.4 metric tons. It also highlighted an increase in break-bulk cargo, which increased by 11.7 percent, because of increased steel imports and the movement of Canadian logs.

Moreover, the port anticipates that volumes will continue to rise. “Canada’s international trade is growing. The port authority and all those who make up the Port of Vancouver are taking steps to ensure the port will be ready to handle the anticipated increase in cargo through Canada’s west coast,” said Robin Silvester, CEO of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. “This includes partnering with terminal operators to expand and improve operations in preparation to meet the expected increased demand.

The port authority is seeking to expand capacity with a new container terminal at Roberts Bank. The project is currently under review by a federally appointed panel.

The Port of Vancouver is the fifth-largest in North America by tonnage.

Nate Tabak, Border and North America Correspondent

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at

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