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Canadian marine opportunities

Canada’s traditional marine strategy has been dominated by security issues (fishing rights, smuggling and in-shore transport) and defence. Few of Canada’s leading ports like Toronto, Churchill or Quebec City are centred on international trade, especially container trade outside the North American triad. For the West Coast of Canada, there is a century-old link to Asia, dating from the ships run by Canadian Pacific to Yokohama, Hong Kong and Shanghai. More recently, the startling rise of the Asian economies " first with Japan a generation ago, then Southeast Asia and the Asian Tigers, and now China " represents a tectonic shift in the global economy.

China, with over a billion people by itself, shifts the global economic order toward Asia. Combined with India, with another billion people, its immediate and long-term effects on the global economy are simply enormous. Clearly, British Columbia, with its legacy of Asian immigration, educational ties, trade and transportation links, stands to gain enormously from its ideal location, with spillovers for Canada at large. For the Western provinces, with their abundant natural resources and trade links in potash, wheat, coal and energy with Japan and other Asian countries, the attractions across the Pacific are critical, even excluding trade with China.

But these changes in the global order do not exclude the rest of Canada. For instance, Ontario has more two-way trade with China than western Canada. Atlantic Canada has its own trade linkages with Asia, from education to French fries, pulp and paper to fisheries. Indeed, if trade is properly managed, Atlantic Canada stands to gain tremendously as another gateway to the world economy, for several reasons:

  • Atlantic Canada is the Canadian gateway to Europe and new trade routes to southern Asia and, over time, the polar routes to Russia.

  • Global trade routes are being transformed by new transportation modes: global shipping companies, ever larger ships and new hub-and-spoke supply chains that favour speed and cost, not distance or cost per mile.

  • The new sophisticated freight forwarding companies, now with a global reach, allow small and medium-sized firms to contract out all aspects of international trade, including documentation, customs clearance insurance, and ideal mode of transport, on a oneoff or continuing basis.

  • Inter-modal transport systems for inland shipping, like Centreport in Winnipeg, plus ocean ports or airports, combining rail and short-haul and long-haul trucks, require new techniques to load, unload quickly and re-sort loads for deconsolidation for short-distance shipping.

  • A new global network of terminal operators, financed by private equity, increasingly integrate corporate supply chains from large deepwater ports via global shipping companies that operate ever larger ships (the ocean equivalent of the largest jumbo jets) into other strategically located deep-water ports around the world, reinforced by the latest communication devices, including RFID (radio frequency identification devices) technologies for online precision tracking.

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