Supply chain crunch as B.C. wildfires halt hundreds of rail cars, slowing exports

Hundreds of rail cars have been halted by wildfires that damaged tracks in western Canada during the region’s severe heat wave, creating a bottleneck of exports and delaying imports.

A fire that burned down a village in British Columbia last week damaged two nearby tracks operated by Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and Canadian National Railway Co., the two companies that account for the bulk of train transportation to the country’s biggest port in Vancouver. Grains, lumber, containers and other goods move along these lines.

It’s the latest hit to supply chains after a year full of snarls that have ranged from a global container shortage to a six-day blockage of the Suez Canal in March. Transportation problems have increased the cost of everything from gasoline to bread and, at times, threatened to leave stores short of key goods.

Canadian miner Teck Resources Ltd. warned that it expects steelmaking coal sales to drop by 300,000 to 500,000 metric tons in the third quarter because it was forced to reroute shipments north to Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

In an email to customers, Hapag-Lloyd AG said rail line damage has caused a berth delay for vessels at the Vancouver port. Delays of 72 hours to 96 hours are expected, as well as a large backlog.

Canadian Pacific said late Monday that it had resumed mainline rail operations following safety inspections, but Montreal-based Canadian National still needs to repair its bridge near Lytton, B.C., the village that was largely destroyed by fire last week.

The Port of Vancouver stated, "due to disrupted rail services, demand for large vessel anchorages currently exceeds capacity."

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Sources: CIFFA, Financial Post

BDP International will continue to monitor the situation in Vancouver and will share additional updates as necessary. In the meantime, should you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your local BDP representative.