There has been stable growth in demand for container trade on Canada’s west coast over the past two decades, with volumes increasing at an average rate of 10 per cent per year since 1995, quickly recovering from temporary downturns, including the 2008 global financial crisis.
There are several reasons for this sustained period of high growth:
- Ongoing economic growth in Canada and around the world
- The opening of China’s economy in the early 2000s resulted in a dramatic increase in the trade of goods in containers
- Containers are increasingly the preferred method of moving goods that were previously shipped by other methods, such as grain, lumber and steel
Overall container volumes have grown at a significantly higher pace than overall economic growth within Canada, and even international trade growth itself. Between 1995 and 2000, the average annual growth of containers through West Coast ports was 142,000 TEUs (about 19 per cent). Since 2012, average growth has risen to about 180,000 TEUs (about five per cent) each year. Though the rate of growth is lower, it reflects a much larger increase of actual containers moved through the port.
As part of our work to ensure there is enough space for growing trade on Canada’s West Coast, the port authority has commissioned a series of independent, expert third-party container traffic forecasts that consider long-term trends in global markets and trade, as well as a range of other drivers of container traffic demand. The findings of these forecasts conclude that container traffic to and from the West Coast is expected to grow significantly, well into the future.
The expert forecasts have proven very accurate. Since 2001, the Port of Vancouver has, on average, achieved more than six per cent growth annually in the container sector, a trend that was predicted by early forecasts.
The most recent forecast, completed in 2016, predicts sustained growth in container traffic through the west coast of Canada to 2040 and beyond, albeit at a lower rate of growth than in the past, due to maturity in global economic growth and the container sector.
The latest forecast offers three scenarios — low, base and high — that informed the port authority’s container sector planning.
- The low case is a scenario in which there is a restrained compound annual growth rate of 2.1 per cent between 2017 and 2040. The low case forecast for West Coast container traffic volumes is 6.7 million TEUs by 2040.
- The base case is a scenario in which global trade growth continues at a compound annual growth rate of 2.9 per cent between 2017 and 2040. The base case forecast for West Coast container traffic volumes is 8.0 million TEUs by 2040.
- The high case is a scenario in which there is high economic growth at a compound annual growth rate of 3.7 per cent between 2017 and 2040. The high case forecast for West Coast container traffic volumes is 9.7 million TEUs by 2040.
Based on our container traffic and capacity forecasts, the entire capacity of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project is needed to ensure Canada is able to meet trade plans and objectives through to the mid-to-late 2030s.
- RBT2 Project Overview & Rationale (7.66 MB pdf)
- 2016 Ocean Shipping Consultants Container Traffic Forecast (4.52 MB pdf)
- Container Movement Information Sheet (0.68 MB pdf)