British Columbia’s Supply Chain Problem
If you have been watching the news, then you have likely heard that British Columbia is currently having a supply chain problem. What is the problem? And why is British Columbia having it? The short answer is the weather, but a longer answer, detailed below, explains that it’s more complicated than that.
All the shipping and logistics that figures into moving products from their origin to their end user is part of the supply chain. Anything that interrupts this process plays havoc with the supply chain.
The southwestern parts of British Columbia always have wind and rain in the fall as part of their mild oceanic climate. However, recently, in mid-November, the rainfall was record-breaking. Some places received the amount of rain in a day or two that they normally receive over a month.
All of the rain caused flooding and mudslides. These episodes of flooding and mudslides were made worse by the past couple of years of devastating wildfires in the summer. When fires decimate a land area, then land that previously was heavily treed with thick undergrowth now has just a waxy earthen floor of decaying vegetation. This spells trouble during heavy rains as water easily washes down the surface of the land.
During flooding, many roads were under water, washed out, and people lost their lives, homes, and properties. This has also been catastrophic for both livestock and other animals that lose their habitats. Some railroad tracks were also washed out. There have been mudslides and landslides on all major roadways connecting Vancouver and surrounding cities to the rest of the province and country.
In October, one container ship, the MV Zim Kingston, dropped over 100 containers in the ocean off of Victoria during a storm. Those containers are still being retrieved.
Next you have to consider the geography. The Lower Mainland is connected by road to the interior of British Columbia by the Trans-Canada Highway. That is the only road artery. There are also roads south across the border into the United States. Highways 99, 3, and 5 were also blocked. Sections of Highway 1 and 5 were washed away completely and will require extensive repair.
Vancouver Island has one natural gas pipeline from mainland British Columbia, but otherwise has access limited to planes and ferries. The main north/south highway on Vancouver Island north of Victoria, in the Malahat, was also washed out and closed for several days. BC Ferries created a temporary ferry route just between Nanaimo and Victoria to address this problem.
At the time of this writing, the Trans-Canada Highway is completely closed in some areas, and in other areas has one lane open for essential travel. Some railroads are operating and others are not. Planes are operating and ferries are operating, although ferry service is also experiencing interruptions.
Gasoline comes from refineries where it is produced from crude oil through fractional distillation then transported by pipeline to smaller distribution points. Gasoline is a specific problem because it is almost always transported by truck from distribution points to local areas. If roads are impassable, then gasoline is not going to be delivered. Currently, there is some mild gasoline rationing on Vancouver Island.
Then there is the problem of panic-buying. People are buying more than they need of some products out of fear, similar to what was happening at the beginning of COVID-19.
Containers are piling up at the ports because of irregular shipping, loading, and unloading that is due to COVID-19 delays. Some pipelines have curtailed pipeline flow because of fear of damage from flooding. All of these things together have created a massive supply chain headache for southern British Columbia.
The good news is that roads are being repaired and reopening, and the water is receding. Panic-buying is not necessary! As the water recedes, pipelines will operate at peak efficiency, trucks will deliver what they are slated to, and railroads will all operate like they should.
Pacific Coast Distribution works hard to keep its shipping and logistics services working at optimum efficiency despite the weather and the pandemic. In order to keep freight moving between the Vancouver area and Eastern Canada, we are utilizing both Highway 3 reroutes and US reroutes to get the job done. Call us at (877) 999-8489 if you need help moving your products quickly and efficiently. We can deal with the current problems so you don’t have to.
Pacific Coast Distribution, LTD, is a family-owned transportation and logistics company, based in Langley, British Columbia, with 20 years of experience and a fleet of 50 trucks and a 60,000-square-foot warehouse.
If you have any questions about this article or would like to talk to us about your transportation and freight needs, give us a call at (877) 999-8489.