While intermodal shipments to the Canadian ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert have stalled since the start of a strike on July 1, coal and grain movements have increased significantly amid unrelated mitigating factors, according to data from supply chain visibility platform RailState.
The strike by members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in Canada at the Pacific coast ports is due to a contract dispute and is close to entering a third week as of Thursday.
“Intermodal experienced the most immediate changes from the work stoppage, slowing to a halt soon after the start of the strike on July 1,” RailState said in a Wednesday report. “Volume changes in other commodities, while not as immediate and stark as intermodal, are also showing a substantial impact from the strike.”
At the Port of Prince Rupert, total train volume has actually increased by 32% since July 1, due in large part to a 44% growth in coal volumes. But coal isn’t the only commodity seeing an increase in traffic: Petroleum unit train volume is up 25% while tank car carloads are up 24.1%, according to RailState.
These increases are because these commodities “move through a terminal under a different contract than the one at stake in the ILWU actions at the other western ports, allowing them to continue operating,” RailState said.
In contrast, all non-domestic intermodal rail traffic in and out of the ports of Prince Rupert and Vancouver has completely stopped, although there has been movement of domestic intermodal trains since July 1 at the Port of Vancouver, RailState said in a Tuesday report.
At the Port of Vancouver, carload traffic has also grown, albeit at a slower rate than the Port of Prince Rupert, according to RailState. Grain unit train volume has increased by 36.6% since the start of the strike. Grain is legally required to move, regardless of a work stoppage, RailState said on Wednesday, although there is some debate occurring now about what grain shipments might qualify due to different levels of processing.
Although the volume of coal unit trains grew at the Port of Prince Rupert, they were down by about 25% at the Port of Vancouver, RailState said. Meanwhile, manifest train volume at the Port of Vancouver moving westbound through Chilliwack was up by 53.3% while petroleum trains were up by 20%.
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