First of CWB’s laker vessels en route to Canada

The CWB Marquis is expected to be in Canadian waters by the end of next month. (CWB photo)

The grain company formerly known as the Canadian Wheat Board expects to have its first of two laker vessels in Canadian waters by the end of the year.

CWB announced Monday it took delivery of the first vessel, an Equinox-class boat dubbed the Marquis, effective Oct. 31, and expects it to sail through the Panama Canal and up the Atlantic to the St. Lawrence Seaway by the end of December.

CWB has previously estimated its investment — valued at about $65 million when announced in early 2011 — would yield about $10 million per year in its grain pools after operation and maintenance costs. CWB at the time estimated Great Lakes freight alone costs Prairie farmers up to $75 million per year.

Equinox vessels are considered the “next generation” of Great Lakes bulk carriers for their ability to carry more cargo, sail faster and consume less fuel than their predecessors, plus their exhaust scrubbing systems designed to remove 97 per cent of sulphur oxide emissions generated by the vessel engines, CWB said.

The CWB Marquis — so named in honour of Marquis, the first wheat variety bred for the short Canadian growing season — was the third Equinox class vessel built at Nantong Mingde Heavy Industries shipyard in China’s Jiangsu province, CWB said.

St. Catharines, Ont.-based bulk shipping firm Algoma Central Corp. — which is to manage CWB’s two Equinox vessels on the grain company’s behalf as part of Algoma’s vessel pool — already owns the first two such vessels, the Algoma Equinox and the Algoma Harvester.

The deal to have the ships built in China followed the federal government’s move in 2010 to lift its 25 per cent tariff on imported vessels, making the purchase “economically feasible,” CWB said in 2011. [Related story]

CWB’s two ships will be used to run grain east out of Thunder Bay and to backhaul iron ore from seaports into Great Lakes destinations.


The purchase of the new boats — which were originally due to be completed in 2013 — “complements CWB’s growing list of assets, and the ships will play a strategic role in an integrated grain handling supply chain,” CWB CEO Ian White said in a release Monday.

“All of our assets are key to ensuring our farmer equity plan is an attractive reason for farmers to choose CWB as their marketing partner.”

The ships join a growing list of physical grain-handling assets CWB has been buying or building since the deregulation of its single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley in 2012.

CWB in recent month has moved to build new elevators at Bloom, west of Portage la Prairie, Man.; at Colonsay, Sask., east of Saskatoon; at Pasqua, Sask., east of Moose Jaw; and Glenlea, Man., south of Winnipeg.

CWB has also bought Great Sandhills Terminal in southwestern Saskatchewan; the Prairie West Terminal group of elevators in western Saskatchewan; and Winnipeg-based Mission Terminal, which along with the Thunder Bay terminal has an elevator west of Brandon, Man., and stakes in three Prairie producer-car loading sites. — Network


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