Demonstrating strong fiscal growth in spite of the continuing challenges from COVID-19, the Port of Vancouver USA is reporting that in 2021, it achieved a net revenue of $48 million. The port moved over 7 million metric tons of commodities, with exports dominating the economic activity of the port in 2021. The port’s total tonnage in 2021 dipped a bit from 2020 to 7.1 million metric tons, not because less product has crossed the port’s docks, but because the port is handling commodities that prove to be less in gross weight, such as the many wind energy components.
The number of vessels coming through the port remained the same as 2020 at 360 calls. The port has observed that there is a long-term trend on the Columbia River system in which vessels carry more cargo per trip, therefore reducing the number of vessel calls, indicating that overall throughput volumes are unaffected.
In 2021, the world saw supply chain challenges, including the logjam of container ships off the coast of southern California, which dramatically impacted the shipping industry. Hundreds of container ships were stuck at sea, just outside the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles. Several factors contributed to this problem, including a return to pre-pandemic consumer spending, higher container rates and shortages of labor.
But the port was less affected by this phenomenon because the port diversifies its commodity mix and is not reliant on any one industry. This allows the port to have a continuous flow of business even during times of economic disruption. Additionally, because the port specializes in bulk and break bulk cargoes, the challenges with the global supply chain actually added some new revenue streams in 2021 and these will continue into 2022.
Seeing an opportunity to move cargo, several manufacturers, primarily using containers for their commodities, took advantage of the port’s break bulk cargo capabilities to move product, including aluminum and pulp. This trend will continue into 2022 because the manufacturers of these materials are choosing to diversify the way they move their shipments using a combination of both container and break bulk shipping.
The port continued to see incredible growth in wind energy business with activity in the wind market expected to continue to grow. The port saw a negligible decrease of 80 metric tons of wind energy components from last year, but this figure does not accurately reflect that the port actually moved more components, weighing fewer metric tons, than the previous year.
In 2021, the Biden administration signed an infrastructure bill into law, which adds funding for renewable energy projects, including wind energy projects. The 2021 Annual Energy Outlook Projection, as estimated by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), projects that this legislation will add more wind energy projects in the U.S., increasing wind power capacity by 36 GW in the U.S. The Port of Vancouver, which imports the most wind energy components on the west coast, expects its wind energy business to continue to grow well beyond 2022, because of this demand.
Grain exports were strong in 2021, with the port moving over 5.4 million metric tons of grain, including three million metric tons of wheat, into the Asian market. Over 62,000 railcars transported these commodities across port-owned track. Additionally, demand for copper concentrate continues to be strong, with the port moving over 310,000 metric tons of it in 2021 – an increase of 10k metric tons over 2020.
The lack of raw materials for electronic parts continues to affect the automobile industry but in 2021, automobile imports at the port remained consistent, with 72,399 autos crossing the docks, just a slight decrease over 2020. In spring of 2022, the port is expected to receive the first electric vehicles from its auto client and is currently installing electric charging stations to accommodate the large number of electric vehicles.
Industrial Occupancy Remains High
Industrial occupancy at the port continues to exceed 99 percent. The port’s 50-plus tenants offer a wide range of products and services including metals and machinery, food processing, plastics molding and electronics recycling. Tenant businesses employ thousands of people and contribute significantly to the local economy and tax base.
Protecting Our Environment
For the eleventh year in a row, the port continued its commitment to renewable energy through the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) equal to 100 percent of its purchased electricity. The port also continued its innovative stormwater management with biofiltration technology that enables the port to meet regulatory requirements to control zinc, oil and other runoff contaminants. Other efforts include floating treatment wetlands in the port’s Terminal 4 stormwater retention pond to assist in reducing copper and zinc. Additionally, in 2021, the Board of Commission approved the implementation of a Climate Action Plan for the port, with the goal of reducing the port’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) over the coming years.
The Terminal 1 project is also continuing to move forward. Construction of the AC Hotel by Marriott will be finished in spring of 2022 and a grand opening is expected in early summer. Renovations of Vancouver Landing are also almost completed, with deconstruction of the former Red Lion Hotel (The Quay) beginning in February, making space for construction of the public market. The port has signed several lease deals on the back blocks of Terminal 1 with Lincoln Property Company (LPC), which plans to develop mixed-use buildings, including commercial office and retail space. LPC has already signed a lease agreement with ZoomInfo, adding approximately 4,000 jobs to the waterfront area.