The first ship of what’s hoped to be a record-breaking year was loading wheat at Manitoba’s Port of Churchill starting Tuesday.
The M.V. Ikan Suji began taking on 32,500 tonnes of No. 2 Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat sold by Richardson International and destined for Mexico.
Merv Tweed, president of OmniTrax Canada, which owns the port and the Hudson Bay Railway that serves it, said it hopes to ship 800,000 tonnes this season, up from 640,000 last year. “The way it’s situated now I think we will get very close to that number.”
The Hudson Bay grain port’s all-time record handle was 729,000 tonnes, set in 1977.
Almost 556,000 tonnes of the grain shipped through Churchill this year will receive a $9 a tonne subsidy, introduced when the Canadian Wheat Board lost its monopoly in 2012.
The subsidy will be available for two more years after this one, during which time the port hopes to win over grain exporters to Churchill’s advantages, Tweed said.
Offsetting Churchill’s geographic advantage for shippers in the middle of North America is the port’s short, three-month shipping season, but Tweed said climate change has stretched it to four months, from mid-July to mid-November.
The problem is convincing shipping companies and their insurers, he added. “We think the first shipping date should hinge on the conditions and not the historical data.”
Richardson International CEO Curt Vossen said the Winnipeg company remains committed to the port.
“With record crops and the capacity challenges we are facing each year, we are making use of all available rail and port terminal capacity to move farmers’ grain as quickly as possible.”
— Allan Dawson is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator at Miami, Man.