Sea/Air Service via Vancouver, a brief history

The concept of a sea/air cargo service via Vancouver was originally dreamt up 30 years ago by a freight forwarder in Germany. Frustrated by rising transport costs, he came up with an elegant solution to the problem of pricey airfreight on Asia-Europe routes: combine the low cost of sea freight with the speed of airfreight by splitting modes.

Working together with Air Canada, he developed a dedicated sea/air route via Canada to Europe. Sea cargo originating in Asian ports would be unloaded on the West Coast, and transported to the airport for loading onto cargo aircraft. Such a solution may sound simple but the reality is that managing the logistics of transferring cargo from ship to aircraft in a timely and economical fashion is akin to choreographing a ballet. Especially since in the early days of the service, there were relatively few direct sailings to Vancouver, so cargo had to frequently be carted to Vancouver from where it was discharged in Seattle.

But once all the bumps had been ironed out, and shipping connections to and from Vancouver became better established, the benefits of this fledgling service must have been seen pretty quickly, as in the early years of the service in the 80’s and 90’s, the volumes of freight using this service surpassed industry expectations by a wide margin.

Now Vancouver has become a major airfreight transfer point for shipments originating in major ports in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, with destinations as diverse as Europe, the Eastern USA, as well as Central and South America.