CN Rail plans to resume service to Vancouver on Wednesday

CN Rail said it anticipates opening the Vancouver-Kamloops section of its line to “limited traffic” on Wednesday | Shutterstock Image

Canadian National Railway Co. will reopen some services linking the Port of Vancouver to the rest of the province and country on early Wednesday, the rail operator said today.

In a statement, CN Rail said it anticipates opening the Vancouver-Kamloops section of its line to “limited traffic” on Wednesday after a weekend of work to bring sections of the rail back into operation. It also reiterated its other Pacific Coast freight service – that to the Port of Prince Rupert – remains “fully operational” and has not experienced any impact for the rainstorms.

CN Rail’s announcement followed that of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP Rail) earlier that services on its line linking Vancouver and Kamloops will likely reopen sometime this evening, barring unforeseen circumstances.

Both lines have been out of service since the atmospheric river rainstorm event that pummeled southwestern B.C. Nov. 13-15, washing out multiple highways in the Fraser Canyon and Coquihalla regions while shutting down all intra-Canada shipping routes into Vancouver for the last week.

In its last operations update last Friday, Port of Vancouver said it “continues to experience disrupted rail and truck movement due to widespread flooding throughout the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley regions.” The update also noted that the priority of officials remain that of public safety and facilitating essential services.

The freight disruptions have created a new glut of vessels waiting at the Port of Vancouver, especially fro bulk commodities.

According the Port of Vancouver’s eHub data, as of Tuesday there are 65 vessels in the port – 23 at berth and 42 at anchorage awaiting a berth opening. Of those, there are now 21 grain-carrier vessels (5 at berths and 16 at anchorage) waiting to bring Canadian products to markets in Asia - as well as 12 coal vessels (1 at berth, 11 at anchorage) and 12 container ships (6 each at berth and at anchorage). 

A shipping industry expert said last week that bulk carriers have little options other than to wait, since most vessels are specifically contracted to pick up certain cargo at certain terminals – meaning there is little flexibility to divert elsewhere to pick up the same commodity from the same producers at another port.