After a decade of growth, traffic through the port remained flat in 2015, according to year-end numbers released by Port Metro Vancouver on Thursday. While imports of container goods and automobiles grew (nine per cent in the case of the latter), a decrease in commodity exports led total traffic to fall from 139 million to 138 million tonnes in 2014.
With the exception of wheat exports, which increased 19 per cent, outbound shipments of coal, forest products and minerals fell. Coal exports fell eight per cent, weighed down by a 21 per cent drop in exports of thermal coal; crude oil exports fell 33 per cent; mineral exports fell 12 per cent; and forest products fell one per cent.
In a statement, port CEO and president Robin Silvester chalked up the dip in exports of commodities to aweakening economy and the slowdown in China, with the asterix that overall container traffic jumped five per cent and that the port had set new records in grain, potash and container traffic. “These strong and consistent cargo volumes through Port Metro Vancouver demonstrate the diversification of the port and the Canadian economy,” said Silverster.
Canada Jetlines, the upstart low-cost airliner, may finally be ready for takeoff. The Richmond-based company announced Wednesday that it plans to go public on the TSX vis-a-vis reverse takeover of a penny stock uranium miner, Jet Metal Corp. The company is seeking to raise $40 million, the sum required for a permit from Transport Canada, as it eyes a summer launch date. Jetlines, which has floated both a launch and an IPO since early 2015, is looking to eschew the fate of NewLeaf Travel Co., the ultra-low cost Canadian airline that was forced to postpone its February launch, setting of a public relations debacle when it became uncertain whether it would be able to pay back its customers.
A disappointing quarter
Two B.C. industrial giants ended 2015 with lukewarm results. Losses at Finning International Inc. extended into the fourth quarter of 2015, as the Vancouver-based company announced that it would axe 400 to 500 jobs from its operations this year, in its fourth quarter filings. That is in addition to the 1,100, or eight per cent of its workforce, that it announced it would lay off last November. Finning, which sells and leases Caterpillar heavy equipment to miners and oil sands producers in Canada and South America, is heavily exposed to the ongoing turndown in commodities. Revenues for the quarter were down 16 per cent from the same quarter a year earlier, at $1.52 billion compared to $1.9 billion—due to a 28 per cent drop in equipment sales.
The picture was a tad sunnier at Canfor Corp., the forestry company in which Jim Pattison holds an almost one-third stake—although perhaps not for shareholders. Profits fell from $35.1 million to $7.9 million.Revenues, however, grew from $989.9 million in the final quarter of 2014 to $1.05 billion in this most recent quarter. Its outlook, however, forecasts a sunnier 2015, as the company expects to benefit from the weak Canadian dollar and demand for lumber driven by the U.S. housing sector.