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Cargo tonnage slightly down in early Seaway season


The first tonnage statistics for the 65th navigation season on the St. Lawrence Seaway, indicate an overall start that is in line to prior year’s traffic at this point in the season. One particularly bright spot was grain being shipped from Western Canada, which recorded a total of nearly 1 million tonne of traffic for the period.

In addition to the strong start for Canadian grain, both cement and steel slab traffic were up, with steel slabs being up 109.77% year over year (40 thousand total tonnes), and cement being up 11.79% year over year (231 thousand total tonnes).

From mid-March to the end of April 3.4 million tonnes of total traffic traversed the seaway – down slightly from the 3.9 million tonnes of traffic recorded for the same period last year, and with significant variation across commodities.

“Through careful planning, investment, and responsiveness to the needs of shippers and ship owners, we do our part to move goods efficiently, safely, and in an environmentally sustainable manner. While ongoing fluctuations in commodities can be expected, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping corridor, a dependable green corridor, is well positioned to ensure shippers maximize opportunities presented in 2023,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC).

At the Port of Thunder Bay, grain shipment was up 10% compared to the 3 year average, and railcar unloads ramped up well above the 3 year average at the start of this season.  Overall, shipments from the port are approximately 11% ahead of last year.

“Last year’s grain harvest was the third largest in Canadian history, which sets us up for a much-improved year in 2023,” said Tim Heney, CEO, Port of Thunder Bay. “Our inbound cargo in general is also off to a strong start, and we expect a great year in that regard as well.”

“Canada has seen a very strong pace of exports for 2023, and we expect that to continue as demand is brisk,” said Carsten Bredin, Vice-President of Grain Merchandising for Richardson International. “This will take carry over stocks to historically low levels, which means we will need to see another large crop to continue this strong export pace.  Seeding is well underway, making a good start for this year’s crop.”

“We continue to see cargo diversify across our port network,” said Ian Hamilton, President & CEO of HOPA Ports. “Already this year, more than 100,000 MT of steel has transited the Port of Hamilton, 58% more than at the same early point last season. Steel slabs are processed locally, hot and cold rolled for use in the auto manufacturing, major appliances and local construction industries. At the Port of Oshawa, cement is showing positive results with volumes tracking 75% higher than the same period last year. Cement is used in construction projects around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. We’re proud to play a role in ensuring robust supply chains for this residential and civil construction activity that is so essential for the regional economy.”

(HOPA photo of Port of Hamilton)