Revived Thunder Bay terminal boosts Richardson’s capacity

Reviving a mothballed port terminal bought from Viterra is expected to more than double Richardson International’s grain handling capacity at Thunder Bay.

The Winnipeg grain company took over Viterra’s Current River grain terminal, with storage capacity of 235,000 tonnes, in a side deal last year stemming from Viterra’s takeover by Glencore Xstrata.

Richardson’s own 95-year-old Thunder Bay terminal, with 208,000 tonnes of storage, brings the privately-held company’s total capacity at the port to 443,000 tonnes.

Current River hadn’t operated for the past three years, Richardson said in a release Thursday, until the company cleaned and restored it last fall. It received rail cars starting last October and began loading vessels the following month.

The Port of Thunder Bay, in its 2013 annual report, noted Current River, after opening in the fall, was “immediately pressed into service,” as the record 2013 harvest began to make its way to port in November following “lower than average shipments” during the spring and summer.

After freeze-up, the Current River terminal filled up with grain, Richardson said; it would later receive both Thunder Bay’s first laker and the first salt water ship for the 2014 shipping season, the terminal’s first full season in four years.

Port officials noted Nov. 5 as the first time Richardson simultaneously loaded two vessels in the port.

The terminal, which is expected to handle mainly canola, oats and wheat, loaded its first vessel of the season on April 22 — a full month later than usual, Richardson said, given the “extreme winter weather” that delayed spring thaw on the Great Lakes.

“It was a team effort on the part of our terminal management and all employees to take a mothballed facility and breathe new life into it to enhance our operations in Thunder Bay,” Darwin Sobkow, the company’s executive vice-president for agribusiness operations and processing, said in Thursday’s release.

Work at the site included cleaning up the facility and grounds, commissioning the scales and re-starting the terminal’s operating systems, the company said.

Current River, he said, is an “excellent complement to our heritage facility and will allow us to increase receiving and shipping efficiencies and capitalize on our ability to handle grains and oilseeds through the eastern Canadian corridor.”

Richardson, he said, has “really just begun to operate the Current River terminal and will look for ways to enhance it.”

Viterra’s Current River terminal site at Thunder Bay dates back to 1927, when United Grain Growers (UGG), which would later merge into Agricore United and then into Viterra, put up a port facility at what was then Port Arthur.

Silos at the UGG terminal collapsed into the lake in September 1959 and were rebuilt in 1961. — Network

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