RailState, the rail industry’s only provider of real-time rail network visibility, independently tracks all freight rail movements across Canada, and as such, is uniquely positioned to observe the initial impacts on rail from the strike at the B.C. ports.
The dockworkers’ strike at the western ports began on July 1 and we have seen a fast and significant impact on freight rail volume out of the ports. Container volume out of the ports quickly dropped and there are now no 20 and 40 foot imported containers moving from port terminals (remaining container traffic is domestic).
With negotiations breaking down on Tuesday and government intervention potentially delayed due to the recess in Parliament, the strike could continue and have an extended impact on rail movements as shippers adjust plans and mounting backups need to be resolved.
“The impact of this strike will be felt for far longer than the strike lasts. We’ll be facing issues for weeks or months to come with clearing backlogs. Some people are out of luck – there’s only so much you can do if your shipment is sitting at the port today,” said John Schmitter, Chief Commercial Officer at RailState. “And shippers face tough choices right now about their next shipment: do they wait, do they go to other Canadian ports, go cross border, change modes (if possible)? They need visibility into the rail network to make the best decisions and those insights about what they can expect across the network is what we’re providing at RailState.”
Likely in anticipation of the strike, containers were loaded on trains before July 1 and the trains moved out of the port on the day the strike began, explaining the higher volumes of trains and container movement on July 1.
Since the strike started, the volume of imported containers moving on rail out of the Port of Vancouver has plummeted.
The railroads have stopped taking orders for most exports out of the western ports and we are seeing drops in intermodal westbound to the ports as well. Drops in this traffic would be expected to lag behind eastbound movements as shippers change routes and shipments already enroute arrive on the west coast.
Intermodal rail traffic eastbound out of Prince Rupert completely halted once loaded trains exited on the first day of the strike.
Traffic westbound into the port has also slowed and there is now no intermodal moving into the port by rail.
If you are interested in more information about the impacts on rail traffic from the strike or how rail network visibility can help you plan your rail operations to address disruptions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.