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Shipping containers are moved on train cars at the Port of Vancouver. Statistics from the port show that trade has slowed after wildfires damaged railway tracks near Lytton.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Shipments of goods have been delayed in and out of the Port of Vancouver after wildfires damaged railway tracks near Lytton in southern British Columbia.

Statistics from the port show that trade has slowed, including at container terminals and at other operations handling bulk commodities.

“There are a large number of trains waiting to arrive at the Port of Vancouver,” Canada’s largest port said in a memo to customers. “We are working closely with our container terminal operators, railways and government to understand the impacts of these delays on terminal operations and to develop a recovery plan.”

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The wildfire that destroyed most of the village of Lytton on June 30 also burned nearby tracks in which Canada’s two largest railways share running rights. Lytton is located 150 kilometres northeast of Vancouver as the crow flies, but the rail route is more than 260 kilometres.

‘Mass cancellations’: The economic fallout from B.C.’s devastating wildfires

Train shipments had been temporarily halted, and while parts of service resumed on Monday, delays of several days are expected as the backlog is gradually cleared.

Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. co-operate at the Port of Vancouver on moving shipments of intermodal freight – goods transported inside standardized metal containers that are readily transferred among ships, trains and trucks.

“The staggering damage of the wildfire on the village of Lytton and the nearby Lytton First Nation is devastating. An investigation and a relief effort are under way, and CN is fully engaged in both,” Canada’s largest railway said in a statement on Wednesday. “In the interim, CN is also working to detour limited traffic where possible to decongest the network.”

The shipping industry deploys large vessels to carry containers, which are reusable steel boxes.

Cargo from containers, including imported consumer goods from Asia and exports of commodities, rose 2 per cent at the Vancouver port last year to a record 3.5 million TEUs, an industry measurement referring to 20-foot equivalent units.

“CP remains focused on a safe recovery of service through the Lytton, British Columbia area and continue the tireless efforts in support of our valued customers and the communities we serve,” Canada’s second-largest railway said in a memo to customers.

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CP also issued a statement to The Globe and Mail, saying its crews inspected tracks and infrastructure before restoring service on Monday afternoon: “CP crews closely monitor conditions and continually watch for signs of wildfires. If spotted, any indication of a wildfire is immediately relayed to authorities.”

GCT Global Container Terminals Inc. operates two container terminals on land leased from its landlord, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority: Deltaport, located about 30 kilometres south of Vancouver; and Vanterm, located along Burrard Inlet near downtown Vancouver.

Dubai-based DP World PLC operates the Centerm container terminal and the multipurpose Fraser Surrey Docks at the Port of Vancouver, as well as the Fairview terminal in Prince Rupert, B.C.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is the federal landlord for various marine terminals. Among those focusing on bulk commodities are Westshore Terminals Investment Corp. and Neptune Bulk Terminals (Canada) Ltd., which handle export shipments such as coal.

Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd. has rerouted coal-export supplies to the Port of Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia. “Rail service between Teck’s steel-making coal operations and West Coast terminals has been disrupted due to damage to the rail line near Lytton,” Teck said in a statement.

The Port of Prince Rupert said on Wednesday that its operations remain “fluid” and have not been affected by B.C. wildfires.

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With Teck rerouting some of its coal exports to Prince Rupert, the disruption to the company represents only 1 to 2 per cent of annual sales volume, said Bank of Nova Scotia analyst Orest Wowkodaw.

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