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Ships as far as the eye can see

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Most of the ship traffic passing under Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge is picking up coal, grain and other Canadian commodities for shipment to Asia.

In 2004, Japan, China, South Korea, the United States and the Netherlands were the top five destinations for outbound Vancouver traffic as measured in metric tonnage. The leading points of origin for inbound traffic were China, the United States, South Korea, Hong Kong and Mexico.

The total amount of cargo handled at the port of Vancouver in 2004 was 75.0 million tonnes—65.9 million tonnes of cargo were loaded and 9.1 million tonnes were unloaded. Coal was the principal commodity moving through Vancouver.

Coal shipments out of Vancouver outpaced grains, the number two commodity exported from the port, by a ratio of almost 3 to 1 by weight. Sulphur, potash and wood pulp were handled in significant quantities at the port. These goods are typically shipped in bulk.

Manufactured goods are usually shipped in containers, which can be in turn transferred onto freight trains. In 2004, Vancouver handled 45% of Canada’s container traffic as well.

Other major ports have also seen traffic growth, both in bulk commodities and container traffic. In 2004, Canada’s ports handled a record 452.3 million tonnes of cargo, up 2% from 2003—the third consecutive year that port activity surpassed 400 million tonnes. International cargo rose 3% to a record 314.6 million tonnes. Domestic cargo remained virtually unchanged at 137.8 million tonnes.