No big problems seen in grain transportation so far

A rail car from SGCC’s fleet. (Dave Bedard photo)

CNS Canada — It’s so far, so good with grain shipments to the three major Canadian ports according, to a spokesperson with Quorum Corporation, which compiles weekly performance updates on Canada’s grain handling sector.

The spokesperson said there not have been any big problems recently, only a few sporadic instances in rail shipments.

There has been an improvement of service since the beginning of the 2018-19 crop year, he said, as the railways added more capacity. There are some car supply problems, he added, but noted not all of these can be avoided.

The spokesperson said overall volumes of grain shipments were up 3.9 per cent at the end of October. In terms of ports, he said Prince Rupert is up 18 per cent and Vancouver is up by 4.4 per cent, but Thunder Bay is down by 4.9 per cent.

With talk of moving crude oil out of Alberta by rail to reduce the province’s glut, the spokesperson couldn’t say if that could have any impact on grain shipments. Grain, as with oil, must share capacity with other commodities such as coal, sulphur and potash as well as intermodal traffic, he said.

According to data in Quorum’s weekly performance update, for week 15 of the 2018-19 crop year, there were 8,750 cars unloaded at the three ports, 5,182 belonging to Canadian National Railway and 3,568 belonging to Canadian Pacific Railway. The year-to-date total stands at 117,359 cars.

So far this grain year, more than six million tonnes of grain have been shipped to Vancouver and almost 1.59 million tonnes to Prince Rupert. Thunder Bay has handled about 2.42 million tonnes.

Quorum’s report noted there were 28 vessels at Vancouver, with eight berthed and the others at anchor. There were five vessels at Prince Rupert.

— Glen Hallick writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Glacier FarmMedia company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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