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Vancouver port CEO warns of coronavirus woes as China trade continues to ebb

Last Updated Feb 27, 2020 at 2:06 pm PDT

Cargo containers are seen stacked at port in Vancouver, on Friday, February 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Summary

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority CEO Robin Silvester says the number of cancelled sailings is on the rise

Broad swathes of the Chinese economy remain effectively shut down due to the outbreak

CEO also commends police for enforcing injunctions, responding “carefully” to blockades barring access to the port

VANCOUVER — The head of Canada’s largest port says the novel coronavirus is eating into trade following a year that saw cargo volumes dip.

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority CEO Robin Silvester says the number of cancelled sailings is on the rise as broad swathes of the Chinese economy remain effectively shut down due to the outbreak.

Silvester says if the virus continues to spread, slowdowns could severely dent trade with Korea and Japan, which together with China account for well over half of freight volume at Canada’s Pacific gateway.

The port saw trade with its largest partner fall in 2019 as China cut wheat and canola shipments from Canada amid diplomatic tensions.

Silvester says mild diplomatic “thawing” between the U.S. and China in recent months could work out well for Canadian cargo.

The CEO is also commending police for enforcing injunctions and responding “carefully” to rolling blockades barring access to the port over the past three weeks, part of demonstrations that have disrupted rail service across the country in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to a natural gas pipeline slated to bisect their traditional territory in northern British Columbia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press