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Protests Disrupt British Columbia Trade Flow

Credit: CN
Credit: CN

By The Maritime Executive 02-16-2020 06:35:40

More than 60 ships are waiting off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, as a result of supply chain disruptions caused by railway blockades. The blockades have been on-going for around nine days in support of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs' opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline, part of LNG Canada's export project in Kitimat.

The pipeline would cross Wet'suwet'en territory, and protests have been held by local indigenous groups including the Tyendinaga Mohawk First Nation and the Gitxsan First Nation. The Trudeau government is currently in talks with local leaders in an attempt to resolve the situation.

The Chamber of Shipping, the B.C. Maritime Employers Association and the B.C. Marine Terminal Operators Association issued a joint statement Friday calling on the government to end the blockade which is affecting exports from the region.

“We are encouraged to see that the Federal and Provincial governments are actively engaging in dialogue with Indigenous leaders to resolve this issue both here in BC and across Canada. We support governments working quickly to bring a peaceful and swift resolution to the disruptions across the country, including the recent resumption of rail service to Prince Rupert. We believe there is a path to uphold the rule of law, restore Canada's well deserved reputation as a stable and reliable supply chain all within the spirit of reconciliation.”

Vancouver and Prince Rupert are strategic ports for the Pacific Gateway and among Canada's busiest ports serving major Canadian industries including manufacturing, mining, energy, forestry, agriculture, and construction. Ongoing disruptions of the supply chain is leading to congestion at port terminals from stranded imports and diminished capacity to service export cargoes.

Prince Rupert is the fastest growing port on the West Coast and highly dependent on CN Rail services. Disruptions will potentially divert ships and cargo to U.S. ports permanently and threaten newly created Indigenous jobs in the region.

Robert Lewis-Manning, President, Chamber of Shipping, said: "Canadian businesses rely on a predictable, efficient and productive supply chain to move products globally. This action is  harming the reputation of Canadian ports and the Canadian supply chain. Even a resumption of service at this stage will take weeks to resolve and impacts the markets that Canadian shippers serve."

CN Rail has issued a statement saying it has sought and obtained court orders and requested the assistance of enforcement agencies to end the blockades: “While both of the illegal blockades in Vaughan have ended and the other one in Vancouver may come to an end shortly, CN has deep concerns regarding the safety of its employees, the public, and the protestors.”