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66 cargo ships off B.C. coast waiting for an end to rail blockages

“Canada is a trading nation and prompt and appropriate resolution of the ongoing disruption must be of the highest priority for our governments.“

At least 66 ships are stuck off the coast of British Columbia as ongoing rail blockades prevent them from delivering their cargo.

In a joint statement on Friday, three shipping industry groups called on the government to act and remove the blockades which have seen west coast ports quickly fill up with goods.

The Chamber of Shipping, the B.C. Maritime Employers Association and the B.C. Marine Terminal Operators Association say that ongoing blockades are going to seriously hurt Canada’s supply chains.

“Ongoing disruptions of the supply chain is leading to congestion at port terminals from stranded imports and diminished capacity to service export cargoes,” the joint statement reads.

“Vancouver and Prince Rupert are strategic ports for the Pacific Gateway and among Canada’s busiest ports serving major Canadian industries including manufacturing, mining, energy, forestry, agriculture, and construction.”

While accepting the right of those who oppose Coastal GasLink to protest, the shipping industry says that the government should be more concerned about attempts to shut down shipping.

“Canada is a trading nation and prompt and appropriate resolution of the ongoing disruption must be of the highest priority for our governments.“

On Feb. 8 protesters of the construction of the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline in Northern B.C. set up a blockade on the railways in New Hazelton, blocking rail access to the Port of Prince Rupert.

Although the blockade has been taken down as protesters negotiate with the RCMP, protesters say they will resume the blockade if the pipeline isn’t cancelled. 

On Friday protesters began occupying the CP rail yard in Coquitlam, blocking access to the Port of Vancouver.

The industry warns that long term disruptions may cause global shipping routes to change against Canada’s interests.

“Prince Rupert is the fastest growing port on the West Coast and highly dependent on CN Rail services. Disruptions will potentially divert ships and cargo to US ports permanently and threaten newly created Indigenous jobs in the region.”

The Coastal GasLink pipeline is a vital part of a $40 billion LNG plant in Kitimat. Completing the project promises jobs for the 20 First Nation communities which agreed to let the pipeline go through their territory.

Over the past few weeks protesters, led by a handful of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, have been blocking the Coastal GasLink construction site in spite of a court order to stand down.

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