Ice-free Great Lakes mean sunny outlook for seaway

(PortOfThunderBay.com)

CNS Canada — A lack of ice on the Great Lakes means Canada’s St. Lawrence Seaway will start shipping grain earlier than last year.

Last year the seaway’s opening was delayed until the beginning of April, due to the amount of ice in the system, according to Bruce Hodgson, director of market development for St. Lawrence Seaway.

The seaway will have two opening dates this year, with the Welland Canal opening on March 21, and the Montreal/Lake Ontario section opening March 23.

“Certainly we’re ahead of last year, which bodes well for the shippers,” Hodgson said.

International ships will likely come into the system earlier, he added. “They typically hold back when there’s ice in the system; they don’t like to come in when it’s like that.”

Limited ice also allows ships to move more quickly than they otherwise could once they’re in the water.

“Last year we had ships in the system, but once they got to Lake Erie they literally couldn’t go anywhere, so this year we don’t anticipate that,” Hodgson said.

Hodgson’s early estimates for the amount of grain the seaway will be moving in the upcoming season is somewhere in the 7.5 million- to eight million-tonne range, but that could change as farmers start harvesting.

“I guess you could say there’s going to be a reasonable carryover from last year. So we expect the year to start off not strong, but not weak; it’ll be a medium start, I guess.”

Last year the St. Lawrence Seaway moved 10.8 million tonnes of grain.

Jade Markus writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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