Port of Thunder Bay wraps up 21st-century-best year


MarketsFarm — The last vessel of the 2020-21 shipping season left the Port of Thunder Bay on Tuesday, wrapping up the busiest year at the port since 1997.

Annual cargo volumes through came in at 10.2 million tonnes, which marked the first time the tonnage topped 10 million since 1997. A total of 9.3 million tonnes of cargo were reported in 2019.

“Much of the success in 2020 is attributable to the port’s strategic position as Western Canada’s gateway to Eastern markets for grain,” the port authority said in a release.

Grain accounted for 9.2 million tonnes of the total movement through the port, up from 7.9 million the previous year.

Overseas grain demand saw over 150 foreign ‘saltie’ vessels load grain at Thunder Bay in the season, marking the second-highest tally at the port since the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959.

Several factors contributed to the grain surge, including significant carryover of grain stock from the large 2019 harvest and worldwide stockpiling of staple foods during the pandemic.

Late-season developments have port officials optimistic for further growth and diversification in 2021. The first import shipment of phosphate fertilizer was handled at Keefer Terminal in early December. The fertilizer is being stored inside and railed to Prairie farms.

Given the success of the arrangement, forwarders are planning to send further shipments in the spring.

“This cargo represents an opportunity to increase inbound shipments in Thunder Bay, capitalizing on the large volume of outbound shipments and available capacity, improving the bottom line for shippers,” CEO Tim Heney said in Tuesday’s release.

“We have invested heavily in infrastructure and marketed a two-way route that adds value for businesses shipping to and from the West. This cargo fits the model and affirms our strategy.”

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