Seaway Grain Shipments Surge by 70%
The St. Lawrence Seaway has been crucial for companies exporting Canada’s bumper grain crop — with shipments already 70% higher than last season. And Great Lakes ports and ship owners are now preparing for the next harvest.
According to the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, while combined Canada-U.S. grain shipments are up 55 per cent, Canadian grain shipments alone from March 25 to July 31 totaled 3.6 million metric tons, a 70 per cent increase over the same period last year.
More than 2500 rail cars of Prairie grain are being unloaded every week at the Port of Thunder Bay. Last year, the weekly average was 939 rail cars. For the third month in a row, ocean and domestic vessels carried one million metric tons of grain out of the port and through the St. Lawrence Seaway in July, and August is expected to be the same.
P&H Grain Group, which has facilities in Thunder Bay, Goderich, Owen Sound, Port Colborne and Hamilton, said the Great Lakes-Seaway system has been vital to export the extra volumes produced by the Prairie record crop as well as strong inventories from Ontario and Quebec farmers.
After a slow start to the season due to ice coverage, total Seaway cargo volumes have rebounded sharply, led by grain movements.
Bruce Hodgson, Director of Market Development, St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation — “The Great Lakes-Seaway system has always been a strong export route for grain, but this season has really demonstrated that farmers would have been in great difficulty without it. Marine shipping on the Seaway is preventing huge transportation bottlenecks and we’re looking forward to moving the next harvest this fall.”
Rob Bryson, Vice-President of P&H Grain Group — “This season we have had a match-up of big crops and strong global demand. The Great Lakes-Seaway has been critical to export these huge volumes from the Prairies as well as the Eastern Canada inventories. We simply couldn’t have shipped it all without this navigation system. It looks like we’ll be busy right up to the next harvest. And we should have a strong last quarter through the Seaway with the next crop.”
Tim Heney, President and CEO of the Thunder Bay Port Authority — “The Port of Thunder Bay has the fastest rail car turn around times in the country. We have 1.2 million metric tons of storage capacity and we have the ocean and domestic carriers to handle these volumes. With forecasters talking about another good harvest on its way, we are optimistic that grain companies will continue to see the Great Lakes-Seaway as the competitive and reliable route for exports to world markets.”
The bi-national Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway marine industry generates $35 billion in business revenues and supports 227,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada.
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