June 3, 2021
Hon. Omar Alghabra, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Transport
330 Sparks St
Ottawa ON K1A 0N5
Dear Minister Alghabra,
On behalf of Pulse Canada and its member organizations, I am writing today to request the Government of Canada take immediate action to address and resolve challenges faced by Canada’s shipping industry. Canada’s pulse industry is asking the Government of Canada to open an investigation into carrier abuse under section 49 of the Canada Transportation Act, to provide greater transparency and clarity into how our system is functioning within the context of a global container shortage.
Canadian pulse growers, traders, processors, and indeed consumers at home and abroad are presently being held hostage by an inconsistent and often unavailable supply of shipping containers. This issue is negatively impacting both the exportation of Canadian pulses and agricultural products as well as the importation of goods that are in high demand among Canadian consumers from coast to coast to coast. With respect to exportation, delays are frequent and lengthy, meaning Canadian companies are not able to fill international contracts. Because of a global scarcity of shipping containers, additional fees and premiums are being levied against delayed product – regardless of the fact these delays are beyond the control of Canadian businesses. Major exporting companies have been told by shipping lines that there will be no new bookings for the foreseeable future. It is imperative that the Government act to ensure Canada’s productive and marketing capacity isn’t shut down due to the lack of transportation capacity.
As of April 2021, total container traffic through Vancouver has been 20% higher than 2020 and 10% higher than 2019 – the highest year on record. This growth was driven not strictly by imports of full containers, but unfortunately by exported empties. From a container perspective, 48% more 20’ empties and 150% more 40’ empties have been exported compared to last year. Exported full containers were down 4.6% in the same period.
Despite a significant increase in container traffic, the containers available for export have significantly declined as shipping lines are prioritizing their own revenue over revenue driving export opportunities for Canadian shippers and the Canadian economy.
The impacts of container scarcity are being felt around the world and other Governments are taking action. In the United States, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg recently launched an investigation to provide greater transparency into practices related to the carriage of US exports. As a trading nation, it is both logical and necessary that Canada conduct a similar investigation to ensure our transportation system is performing at a level that meets the needs of its users. Canadians cannot afford to be left behind – especially as we ask more of ourselves to build back better from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canada’s global reputation as a reliable supplier is once again being put through the ringer. Canadians are losing out on international sales, economic opportunity, and paying excessive fees just to hold onto sales to which they have already committed.
The Government of Canada can and must play an active role in providing the rules and oversight to ensure the behavior of shipping lines does not adversely impact the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire transportation logistics system and its ability to serve Canadian shippers and consumers. Pulse Canada is committing to play an active role in any such investigation, and will work in cooperation with the Government and shipping stakeholders for the betterment of Canadians and our overall economy.
We look forward to discussing this matter with your further at your earliest convenience.
Pulse Canada is the national association of growers, traders and processors of Canadian pulses, also known as lentils, dry peas, beans and chickpeas. Pulses are an essential part of a healthy and sustainable diet. Pulses and pulse ingredients can help food manufacturers improve the nutritional and functional quality of food products.