CN adds more containers for grocery goods

Aiming to boost its share of Canada’s domestic grocery and consumer goods shipping business, Canadian National Railway (CN) has bought over 1,000 new containers to cater to that market segment.

About 80 per cent of the new containers are heated to carry “temperature-sensitive” goods year-round, while the remainder are standard dry containers, the railway said in a release Monday.

The investment “will benefit the reliability of the supply chains of our grocery, consumer goods and manufacturing customers,” CN chief marketing officer Jean-Jacques Ruest said.

Intermodal service — transferring containers between long-haul trains and short-haul trucks — is “more cost-effective than truck while offering customers truck-like transit times and a lower carbon footprint,” Ruest said, noting CN has set up a “growing business” handling temperature-sensitive goods in long-haul markets across the country.

About 540 of the new containers will go to replace older cars in CN’s domestic container fleet, while another 520 are expected to boost that domestic container fleet to nearly 6,000 units.

Among CN’s customers in the grocery sector, Heinz Canada, for one, said it welcomed the investment in heated equipment.

“This will certainly make load planning easier for us knowing that CN can provide us with more containers to send to our valuable customers during seasons requiring heated equipment,” Tim Epplett, Heinz’s supply chain manager for traffic, said in CN’s release.

Montreal-based CN said its intermodal service offers shippers a rail advantage of about 24 hours from central Canada to Western Canada, and is “competitive” with single-truck-driver service between central Canada and Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver markets.

CN also offers Canada’s only rail service option from Montreal to Halifax, the company said.

The railway handled about 1.455 million intermodal carloads in fiscal 2010, worth $1.576 billion in revenues, up from 1.246 million carloads and $1.337 billion in intermodal revenue in 2009.

By comparison, CN in 2010 handled 579,000 carloads of grain and fertilizers, for revenues of $1.418 billion.

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