Viterra, railways to define terms for operating agreements

Canada’s biggest grain handler has signed an understanding with its two main railways to set the terms by which they’ll gauge railway performance in future operating agreements.

Viterra late Friday said its memorandum of understanding with Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) Railways is aimed at “improving logistical efficiencies” in the Prairie grain handling system.

As per the memo of understanding, the companies would agree on “specific metrics” to gauge performance in areas such as order placement and handling, country execution, transit and port performance.

“This is an important step towards definitive operating agreements that will benefit all stakeholders in Canada’s grain industry, from farmers to destination customers,” Bob Miller, Viterra’s senior vice-president for North American grain, said in a release.

Regina-based Viterra noted in its release that it loads over 160,000 railcars per year in Canada and 300 ships at Canadian ports.

The company has also “made a series of infrastructure investments over the last several years to promote the efficient movement of grains and oilseeds,” Miller noted.

CP on Tuesday also announced a “collaboration agreement” with Port Metro Vancouver, meant to “improve productivity and performance through Canada’s Pacific Gateway,” the railway’s fourth such collaboration agreement in the past 12 months.

Speaking in Winnipeg Thursday, CN CEO Claude Mongeau called for the railway, its shippers and its regulators to “embrace change and foster innovation” and cited CN’s Scheduled Grain Plan, which involves delivering specified hopper cars to specified elevators on specified days each week.

Such a plan, he said, is “a prototype of what we have to do more of in the key supply chains we serve to support increased competitiveness.”

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