Port of Vancouver has record year for tonnage

Imports decline 17 percent, operating revenues fall in 2016

By Troy Brynelson, Columbian staff writer

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The Port of Vancouver had a record year for tonnage last year, though imports and operating revenues are less glowing.

Port officials announced last week that nearly 7.5 million metric tons crossed its docks in 2016 — a 7.7 percent bump from the year prior. About 86 percent of that freight came from exported goods, such as grains, jet fuel and copper.

The weighty results suggest that the port’s tenants are booming, officials said.

“It’s showing that not only is business continuing to do really great here, but our strategic investments like the West Vancouver Freight Access Project are really paying off,” spokesperson Magan Reed said.

Fifty businesses and about 3,200 employees work at the port, according to the port. A 2014 report commissioned by the port said it helps put $2.9 billion annually into the local economy.

Port officials said it was the third straight year it had broken its own tonnage record.

Agriculture remained the heavy hitter. Grain, soy beans and corn alone shipped 5.3 million metric tons. Exports altogether climbed 14 percent.

Imports, however, are another story. While imports of some commodities rose, such as components for windmills, imports as a whole decreased 17 percent year over year.

Ports across the country have seen similar drops. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, imports fell by 2.7 percent, or $63 billion, nationwide.

The Port of Vancouver also saw its operating revenue decline from $38.2 million to $35.9 million. Port officials wrote in the announcement that the global economy and fluctuating currency contributed. A strong U.S. dollar, for example, can lead to a decrease in exports as American commodities become more expensive around the world.

“Different commodities can fluctuate from year to year based on fluctuations in the global market, supply and demand or a number of other reasons,” Reed said.

Port officials announced the figures after completing its annual audit, the results of which are expected to be announced.