Canadian Shipper


CIFFA urges “immediate action” by feds on Port Metro Vancouver crisis

TORONTO, Ont.–The Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association has issued a statement about the current situation at Port Metro Vancouver, “which is now reaching a crisis level,” and the association is urging “decisive action” be taken immediately to ensure that the port terminals remain open and able to receive Vancouver destined cargo.

“If the drayage operators are not back at work within a day or two, the consequences will be devastating. The terminals are full and we expect to hear soon that the terminals will effectively ‘close’ by Monday if the strike is not resolved immediately. As one member said yesterday, ‘vessel diversions, and declarations of force majeure, will soon be upon us,” CIFFA said.

“If the terminals at PMV cannot accept inbound Vancouver terminating cargo and vessels are not allowed to discharge those containers, there are only a few options – all of which are terrible and could bring ruin to Canada’s importers,” the association added. 

CN Rail has advised the association that while new services are suspended, the railway “has action plans in place to deliver reefer containers already at CN Intermodal Terminal in Vancouver as well as en-route. CN continues to monitor the situation very closely and is exploring options to resume reefer services ASAP,” the company said.

CIFFA has written to Ministers Raitt, Leitch and Fast, the Minister of Transport, Minister of Labour, and Minister of APG & International Trade, respectively, briefly outlining some of the consequences and urging immediate action on the part of the Government of Canada.

The letter, posted at, notes that Canada’s successful conclusion of a free trade agreement with South Korea this week “will most certainly fail to drive economic growth, employment or opportunity for Canadians if Canada’s premier Asian gateway at Port Metro Vancouver is not open for business. And, more importantly, Canada’s entire investment in international trade will be for naught if Canadian exporters and importers do not have a global transportation system that is reliable, trustworthy and competitively priced. Canada’s reputation in the global marketplace has already been damaged by the truckers’ actions at PMV over the past two weeks, following as they have, an extremely challenging winter,” said CIFFA.

According to CIFFA, one multinational CIFFA member firm advises that 20% of its Canadian PMV gateway cargo is already being or will be diverted to other ports, probably to US west coast ports.

“Importers and exporters are making the decisions they must take to get their goods to market. With no information on a possible resolution, who can blame them? The danger is that once these cargoes go to another port, they may never return to Vancouver,” the association said.

If the terminals at PMV cannot accept inbound Vancouver terminating cargo and vessels are not allowed to discharge those containers, there are only a few options – all of which are “terrible,” said CIFFA.

“Cargo could possibly be converted from Vancouver terminating to intermodal, discharged at Vancouver and railed to a Canadian city such as Calgary. This would, of course, be contingent on the carrier and the importer agreeing and on the railroads having the capacity to accept additional containers – not at all certain given the rail delays of the past several weeks. Once at another Canadian destination, alternative transload facilities would need to be found or containers would need to be trucked back to Vancouver. Costly and inefficient. Cargo could be left on the vessel and discharged at a US port, where it could sit in bond until PMV is open and able to receive Vancouver cargo again, at which time it could be loaded back onto a vessel and brought to PMV. However, storage and demurrage charges would most certainly apply (hundreds of dollars per day) and it is not certain that the US Customs and Border Protection would allow the cargo to offload as the ISF10+ 2 for US destined cargo or ISF 5+2 for intransit cargo may not have been filed. Fines are in the range of $5000 per shipment for failure to file,” the association noted.

If Vancouver containers were discharged at Tacoma or Portland for example and not left in bond on the docks there, the cargo would have to be transloaded at those ports as the equipment would need to be returned to those container yards. The association suggests that costs will be prohibitive and the same issues noted above regarding US advanced filing requirements will exist.

“We urge the Government of Canada to take immediate action to ensure that Canada’s cargo moves during this challenging time,” CIFFA stressed.