The Courtney Agencies Story

Family-owned Courtney Agencies was born on the shores of the mighty Fraser in 1955. This is their story.

Courtney Agencies – owned and operated by Paul Courtney, and his wife and partner, Virginia Weiler – has a deep and rich history in British Columbia. The company was set in motion by the career choice of Paul Courtney’s grandfather, started by his father, later run by his mother, with decades of hands-on support from their two sons – one of which is Paul.

The history, the longevity and the ownership model delivers value to Courtney clients. As a family-owned company, Courtney has been able to center its clients in every decision it makes. Not bound to shareholders or distant owners, Paul and Virginia keep their focus on the business, their team and their client relationships.

Picture of a teenaged Dick Courtney believed to have been captured by famous street photographer Foncie Pulice

Paul was literally born into the industry. For years his grandfather, J.A. ”Alex” Courtney, was the manager of a successful shipping and storage business based in New Westminster, BC. For West Coast shippers and customs brokers, the Port of New Westminster was where it happened. The Fraser River – a working river – has a history of moving logs and lumber, coal and other industrial products into and out of Canada.

Alex’s son, Richard “Dick” Courtney, worked with him – learning the ropes while gaining confidence and growing an interest in an enterprise of his own. In 1955, Dick established Courtney Agencies Ltd. A shack on the docks in New Westminster was the first home of Courtney Agencies and where it served as Ship’s Agent and Customs Broker for this west coast port of entry. No shipping containers, no computers, not even an electric typewriter in those days. In the winters, Paul’s grandmother, Laura Courtney, would be the first in each morning with the job of warming up the shack so the manual typewriters would work.

Dick married Veronica “Ronnie” who would later join the Courtney Agencies’ crew. Together Dick and Ronnie dedicated more than a decade to their business. Their sons, Paul and Don, breathed the shipping air – practically learning the trade by osmosis after school and in the summers. It was a family affair with “all hands on deck.” In fact,  grandmother, Laura Courtney, worked with the business until she was in her eighties. 

When Dick passed in 2000, Ronnie took the reins. Not surprisingly, her boys would have an interest in carrying on the tradition. Don dedicated twenty years to building Courtney Agencies, and Paul moved to Toronto to take university-level business courses and to focus on earning industry-specific certificates.

Marine Building in Vancouver

There have been significant changes over the decades. Courtney moved from the docks to offices to the historic Marine Building in Vancouver to be closer to the Port of Vancouver which, by the seventies, had outpaced the one in New Westminster. The Telex machine hummed with communication between the ships and us – the ship’s agent.

Courtney found a great resource in Laurence Lovett who, for more than 30 years, worked tirelessly to transition the business from paper to digital. His legacy is in Courtney’s DNA as theirs was one of the first Customs Brokers to have a website with resources for clients. No-one was more prepared for the Y2K millennium switch. Today, Courtney operates from their offices in downtown Vancouver with much of their business conducted through the cloud.

In  2010, Courtney broadened its service offerings, to include freight forwarding — bringing goods to and from locations anywhere on the globe. 

In 2023 (concluding in 2024), Paul and Virginia purchased PMK International – a customs brokerage in Seattle, Washington. This move provided both Courtney and PMK clients with equal weight and Customs expertise on both sides of the Canada-US border. Paul and Virginia now employ more than 30 specialists who hail from all over the world and create a vibrant, multicultural workplace.

Courtney is governed by an articulated social purpose and invests in its responsibility to be a good corporate citizen. A B Corp, Courtney has reduced its carbon emissions, offsets what can’t be reduced, invests in its people, invests in its community, and supports humanitarian causes – particularly those that touch the hearts of its employees.

Drawing on the strength of its past, Courtney – and now PMK – are more than ready to be a force for the future.

Thanks to all the family, clients, friends, partners and staff members that have been part of this journey.