Canadian Ports Win as Ships Avoid US on Labor Concern
Ben Nelms/Bloomberg News
Prince Rupert, a remote port luring tourists with the slogan “Where Canada’s Wilderness Begins,” may want to consider a new motto: “Asia’s Gateway to Chicago.”
Container ships sailing across the northern Pacific are carrying more cargo and are setting course for British Columbia to avoid delays from a possible strike by U.S. West Coast longshoremen. Traffic in Prince Rupert soared 49% in July from a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence, while volume dropped 19% in Seattle, its nearest major U.S. rival.
Canadian ports are gaining an advantage over their U.S. rivals amid an economic recovery that’s increasing container volumes from East Asia. While U.S. West Coast ports are mired in a labor dispute and congestion hobbles local railways, Prince Rupert is winning customers with its shorter sailing times from China and efficient infrastructure that can whisk freight to the U.S. Midwest and beyond.
“If people are using the Canadian ports now out of concern for a slowdown, and they like what they see and they like the processing times and the experience, they’ll continue to funnel some of their traffic that way,” Emma Griffith, a director at Fitch Ratings in New York who covers air and sea ports, said by phone Aug. 19.
One of the companies best positioned to benefit from the added traffic is Canadian National Railway Co. The Montreal-based company, which rose to a record yesterday in Toronto trading, has exclusive connections to Prince Rupert and its lines help make the port a linchpin in the quickest sea-and-land route linking East Asia and the U.S. Midwest, according to the Prince Rupert Port Authority.
Container traffic is rising on both sides of the continent. The volume at the biggest U.S. and Canadian ports rose 7.2% from a year earlier in May, the latest month for which industrywide data has been published, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. That outpaced April’s 5.9% gain.
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