St. Lawrence Seaway sees cargo surge
THUNDER BAY — The St. Lawrence Seaway and Canadian ports including the Port of Thunder Bay are seeing a surge in commodity shipments to sustain domestic manufacturing and construction activity, according to June statistics.
In Thunder Bay, loadings were strong with a reported year-to-date grain tally being the third highest of the past 25 seasons. Over the winter, however, things took a different direction.
“A lot of the carryover grain was officially railed to the west coast. It went to markets that way,” says Tim Heney, president and chief executive officer for the Thunder Bay Port Authority.
“Because everything else was kind of down in terms of shipments, grain was something they jumped on and were quite efficient at moving over the winter . . . we are closed in winter. A lot of it was moved west to Vancouver (by rail). There is not much left in carry over at this point.”
The current drought that is drying out central Canada is playing havoc with western crops that will likely have an impact on shipments out of the Thunder Bay port this season.
“It’s certainly a question for sure,” said Heney. “Overall I would say that (the drought) will make for weaker shipments but it’s hard to say the amount because there’s factors at play.”
Heney says it’s not always the same across the Prairies and there are lots of “factors” that contribute to the amount of grain shipped out of the Thunder Bay port.
A large amount of grain comes from Manitoba. He says it can be dry in western Saskatchewan and that doesn’t affect the Thunder Bay port much, as long as Manitoba is growing well.
“A certain amount is going to be harvested and . . . if it is destined for Europe, we still get it (at our port),” he said.
The second-largest shipment out of Thunder Bay is canola, which is predominantly used for bio fuels in Europe. After the canola is crushed, the residual mass is used for animal feed.
“That’s the second largest thing through the port, and again, that will depend on Manitoba’s harvest . . . it is looking pretty dry and there is no question about that,” Heney said.
He says the port is seeing a greater variety of cargoes than they were seeing at this time last year, which is “an important indicator of success for us.”
“At Keefer Terminal, we’ve been seeing strong imports of steel, which are expected to continue through the year, as well as a variety of project cargoes, and imported phosphate fertilizer from Morocco, which we just started bringing in last fall,” he said.
Meanwhile, June figures show the total cargo shipped via the St. Lawrence Seaway was up 8.37 per cent, which compared to the same period in 2020, is an additional 12.9 million metric tonnes from March 22 to June 30.