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The persistent flooding throughout Canada and its impact on the Port of Vancouver — the country’s largest port — has led to widespread delays and difficulties throughout Canada’s extended supply chain. These extreme weather events have impacted goods moving across multiple modes, including ocean, truckload, LTL and rail, and the delays and disruptions they’re causing show no signs of abating before the end of the year.
FourKites data helps paint a picture of how the floods in British Columbia and beyond are impacting supply chain operations, as well as how long the repercussions of these events are likely to linger. The Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railways have yet to fully restore service amid on-and-off rain that began in mid-November, and two of the three major highways connecting the largest Canadian port with inland British Columbia are closed to truckers.
Though there has been short-term improvement in movement of goods, with a second wave of intense rain prolonging these disruptions, shippers face delays that may stretch into next year. Here are the immediate impacts of the flooding, as observed on the FourKites platform:
The flooding began on November 14. That same week, we saw the proportion of on-time container shipments at the Port of Vancouver drop nearly 40% for that individual week, compared to the previous week. Since the week of November 22, on-time performance has improved by more than 20%, but we are still seeing on-time performance at 15% below the 3-month average of 67%.
We saw a 15% spike in delays of containers coming into the Port of Vancouver in November, compared to the previous two months. The downstream impact of these delays caused increases in costs of the imported goods that are in high demand during the holiday season. Additionally, it can delay finished goods that rely on raw materials from these shipments and adds further pressure to shippers and logistics providers working to serve the ever-increasing customer expectations for on-time holiday deliveries.
The flooding in Canada is also having an impact on truckload shipments across British Columbia. In November, we saw an increase in average dwell time for truckload shipments to 645 minutes — an increase of over 150%. This spike may point to facilities being overwhelmed and requiring drivers to wait overnight before getting their trucks loaded or unloaded.
While the Port of Vancouver has not been directly affected by flooding, rail shipping has been suspended, and the highways that act as arteries to Canada’s interior have been closed. The port is working with emergency managers to figure out how long the closures would continue, but the extent of the damage is still being assessed.
On the FourKites platform, we have seen rail and intermodal shipment volume drop precipitously — over 85% since the beginning of November. Meanwhile, in the final weeks in November, intermodal and railborne loads saw an ~8% increase in late loads compared to the same period in October, well over the 3-month late average of 19% of loads. Dwell time for rail and intermodal loads has shot up 2.3x over the 3-month average, pointing to excessive wait times and underutilized capacity.
As conditions continue to improve, we’ll likely see the impact of these floods and their associated downstream effects begin to relieve over the next several weeks. Many of the roads have begun to re-open but with many restrictions such as size of the vehicle or weight of the vehicle as well.
However, it is unlikely that operations will return to any semblance of normalcy until well into the New Year. The weather in Canada is calling for a wintery mix of rain and snowfall, which will continue to put many parts of the region on high alert, and continue to impact truck traffic for long haul trips to and from the port of Vancouver. As we look ahead to the coming weeks and months, shippers should buckle up and prepare – it’s going to be a long, difficult winter.