Forestry and legumes shippers say railways prioritized other commodities

Companies say they lost millions on Port of Vancouver shipments

Forestry and legumes shippers say railways prioritized other commodities

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Construction has begun on the new Eagle Mountain elementary school in Abbotsford. (Screengrab from video by CHP Architects)
Construction begins on new Eagle Mountain elementary school in Abbotsford

School, including childcare spaces, is set to open in September 2022

Bill Hireen joined Remembrance Day celebrations in Abbotsford in 2019. The veteran and long-time civic supporter passed away on Dec. 31, 2020. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Long-time Abbotsford city council supporter dies of COVID-19

Bill Hireen was a frequent visitor to council and police board meetings

Uber Eats has announced that it is now delivering food orders in Abbotsford and Chilliwack. (Submitted photo by Justin Walker)
Uber Eats announces expansion into Abbotsford

Food-delivery company is staring with 60 local restaurants

Nakota Hinksman had been reported missing in Abbotsford, but has since been located.
UPDATE: Missing teen with autism has been located in Abbotsford

Nakota Hinksman, 18, had been missing since 3:20 a.m. on Tuesday

NHL Central Scouting has ranked three Abbotsford hockey talents as likely to be drafted in 2021. (Twitter photo)
Trio of Abbotsford hockey talents placed on NHL watch list

Abbotsford’s Chiasson, Milne and Sward all ranked as C grade prospects for 2021 NHL draft

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP officers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 stand by. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
RCMP appeal for witnesses after hit-and-run leaves girl, 17, in critical condition

The Metro Vancouver teenager was found unconscious and critically injured after being hit: police

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Most Read