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Air Canada adds flights to move cargo blocked by Vancouver flooding

Air Canada has significantly boosted cargo capacity into and out of Vancouver from its three domestic hubs to help keep vital supply lines open following devastating floods and landslides that have wrecked rail lines and blocked truck routes. Increased cargo-only flights and use of larger aircraft on passenger trips will add 646 tons of capacity above planned levels, providing an outlet for shippers experiencing transport delays. The 45% surge in cargo capacity to British Columbia will last until Nov.

30, the airline said Monday. Air Canada (OTC US: ACDVF) has substituted Boeing 787, 777 and Airbus A330-300 widebody aircraft for smaller aircraft on 28 scheduled passenger flights and will operate 13 extra all-cargo flights between Toronto, Montreal and Calgary with large aircraft, Jason Berry, vice president of cargo, said in a statement. “These aircraft will help move mail and perishables such as seafood, as well as automotive parts and other industrial goods,” he said. 

Management is also working with regional partner Jazz Aviation to provide additional regional cargo capacity by temporarily converting an Air Canada Express De Havilland Dash 8-400 from its normal passenger configuration to a special freighter with the seats removed. Jazz, which operates as Air Canada Express, last year ordered 13 modification kits from the manufacturer to allow floor-loading of cargo in the passenger cabin. The temporary freighter can carry 18,000 pounds of cargo and will be in service this week, Air Canada said. 

Last week, Air Canada quickly upsized aircraft on 14 passenger flights into Vancouver to provide more airlift for freight. The carrier said it “continues to monitor the situation in British Columbia very closely and will adjust its passenger and cargo schedule accordingly.” Heavy rain from a major storm more than a week ago led to flooding and landslides that washed out sections of CN and Canadian Pacific rail tracks, cutting off the Port of Vancouver from rail service.

The storm also closed many roads in the province, limiting truck access to the port. Vancouver is a major ocean gateway for imports and exports in Canada, as well as a key intermodal route for Asia freight going to the U.S. heartland through Chicago. CN and CP crews are working to restore rail service. CP officials said they expect to resume service in the region later this week.

The delays have slowed vessel unloading, with 47 ships waiting for a berth as of Monday. Shipping line Maersk told customers that normal freight flows in and out of Vancouver will be impacted for several weeks by the disruption.  Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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