Coastal GasLink protests could cripple Canada’s ports

Downtown Montreal skyline on stormy day featuring the ST. Lawrence river shore, partial view of the old port and the many office buildings, hotels and apartment buildings.

Canada’s biggest ports will be badly affected by ongoing rail blockades and protests against the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline, according to Fitch Ratings.

Ports situated further away from destination markets and reliant on rail will be most heavily affected; these include Halifax, Prince Rupert and Vancouver.

The Canadian National Railway Corporation (CN) was made to stop traffic on its network east of Toronto on 13 February 2020, due to blockades near Bellville, Ontario.

The blockades on the CN main line, Fitch Ratings says, between Montreal and Toronto caused slowdowns at the ports of Montreal and Halifax.

The blockades and protests began in early February in response to plans to build the natural gas pipeline, partially through the territory of indigenous people – the We’suwet’en First Nation.

However, the effect of blockcades on Canadian port volumes has been varied, with the main operator at the Port of Montreal seeing limited volume declines.

Halifax and Prince Rupert are most vulnerable relative to other ports that more rail or other transportation options should there be continued disruptions due to their reliance on rail.

According to Fitch Ratings, the blockades could have a wider economic effect on the trade of goods and agricultural products and manufacturing activity in Canada, which will ultimately affect the country’s ports.

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