Thunder Bay grain shipments up sharply


CNS Canada — The Port of Thunder Bay has completed its busiest month in over a decade, moving over 1.5 million tonnes of cargo in May as the late start to this year’s season had shippers playing catch-up.

Grain shipments accounted for the bulk of the activity in Thunder Bay, with 1.318 million tonnes shipped during May, according to port data. That nearly doubles the 708,234 tonnes shipped during the same month the previous year.

Total grain shipments to date of 1.454 million tonnes are already up from the 1.406 million shipped by the end of May in 2013, despite the fact that the shipping season started four weeks later than normal.

The strong pace is expected to continue through the summer, according to Tim Heney, CEO of the Thunder Bay Port Authority.

After seeing a total of roughly 5.5 million tonnes of grain shipped through the port in 2013, he said some industry participants were anticipating up to eight million tonnes this season. “I’m saying ‘Probably seven (million),’ but that would still be a million and a half above last year.”

Capacity improvements contributed to the increased grain movement, he said, noting Richardson International is now operating two facilities at the port.

New federal regulations to improve rail movement, which included quotas on how many grain cars Canada’s two major railways need to move per week, also favoured moving grain through the port.

“Thunder Bay is one the easiest places to meet their mandate of minimum car movement,” said Heney. “If they want to move a lot of cars with fewer locomotives — Thunder Bay is the place to do it.”

The shipping season at the Lake Superior port typically runs from late March through December, but thick ice conditions on the Great Lakes meant the first boat didn’t move this year until late April.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.



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