Rail intermodal traffic consists primarily of retail goods in overseas containers transported by train, ship, and truck; and in domestic containers and 53-foot trailers moved by train and truck. Since Canadian railroads directly control the marketing of their intermodal services (in contrast to the United States where the service is wholesaled), the commercial pulse of the Class 1 railways in Canada can directly energize port traffic.
Intermodal traffic volume increased seven per cent for CP and 16 per cent for CN in the Second Quarter of 2017. With such a torrid growth rate, port officials and shippers are asking what the outlook will be for international intermodal traffic. This article explores several important topics with top Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) representatives to help shippers make informed supply chain decisions.
The growth of international intermodal traffic in Canada is increasingly linked to North American economic and trade conditions. CN’s Jean-Jacques Ruest, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, noted that the international intermodal model is different in Canada and the U.S. “In Canada, there is not as much transloading as Los Angeles and Long Beach, for example,” he said. “In fact, the Prince Rupert international intermodal model is the total reverse of the southern California market. Vancouver is somewhere between Los Angeles/Long Beach and Prince Rupert. In the Canadian port market, the cargo and containers need to go inland.” In turn, this creates opportunities for export cargo to flow through either the Vancouver or Prince Rupert gateways.
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