WeatherBug to monitor port loading conditions

The Prairie-wide network of WeatherBug weather stations has now expanded to monitor whether the weather is suitable for loading grain vessels at ports.

The WeatherBug system in Western Canada was developed and launched in August 2007 by WeatherBug Professional, the Canadian Wheat Board and Canada’s second-largest grain handler, Richardson International and now includes almost 500 stations across the Prairies.

But the latest such weather station in the network, the CWB said Wednesday, goes outside the Prairies and is operating above the loading dock at Mission Terminal at Thunder Bay, Ont.

There, it will keep track of live conditions, such as rainfall and wind speed, that affect loading of Prairie grain onto ships, the CWB said.

“The rate of rain is the important factor when deciding whether a ship can open its hatches to load,” Mission Terminal manager Paul Kennedy said in the CWB’s release Wednesday.

“This weather station has a real purpose in terms of our business operations. The more efficient we can be in managing loading times, the better for everyone.”

Other benefits for port authorities and shipping lines, the CWB said, include “leveraging localized weather conditions for port forecasting, which in turn can help companies improve planning of stevedore hires and decrease charges or penalties incurred for delays due to weather.

Richardson installed WeatherBug weather stations last summer at its own port loading facilities, which include Thunder Bay, Vancouver, Hamilton and Sorel, Que., on top of the 60 weather monitors the company had previously installed at Richardson Pioneer outlets across the Prairies.

“By collecting and sharing data from the weather stations, we are better positioned to help producers with important crop management decisions and improve our operations in grain sourcing and shipping,” said Kevin Jacobson, director of corporate communications for Richardson International, in the CWB’s release.

Jim Anderson, WeatherBug’s director of business development, said in the same release that the move to ports is a natural evolution.

“With the continued support of our partners in Canada, we can build a national network that not only helps farmers, but also schools, emergency managers, media outlets and other businesses,” Anderson said.

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