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Covid-19 continues to impact Seaway cargo volumes

Photos: Paul Beesley

The latest traffic results show that Great Lakes-Seaway shipping continues to feel the impact of the global pandemic. But grain shipments remain a bright feature.

Tonnage through the bi-national transportation corridor totaled 3.9 million metric tons in July to bring the year-to-date total (from April 1 to July 31) to nearly 15.6 million metric tons, or just less than 8 percent below a year ago.

Year-to-date shipments of iron ore (down 13 percent), coal (down 16 percent), dry bulk (down 12 percent) and liquid bulk (down 20 percent) were offset in part by a strong showing in bi-national grain (up 6.7 per cent) and general cargo like wind turbines (up 4 percent).

“It’s good to see overall grain shipments up, thanks mainly to strong Canadian grain exports. We are optimistic that grain shipments, both Canadian and U.S., will have a significant impact in the coming months as the 2020 crops come in,” said Bruce Burrows, President and CEO of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “But the Great Lakes-Seaway shipping industry has lost a lot of ground due to the pandemic and continued decreases in areas like dry bulk and iron ore are a reflection of the economy not yet being back up to speed. The recent uptick in the auto industry could help in the months ahead.”

“It’s great to see the continued strong numbers for Canadian grain shipments, which has helped offset significant declines in key cargo sectors such as iron ore, dry bulk and petroleum,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. “The Seaway has been a vital export corridor for Canadian farmers to reach world markets during the pandemic. We’re hopeful that grain numbers will remain strong with the new crop harvests in the autumn.”

The Port of Thunder Bay continues to see above-average grain shipments. This is a reflection of the continuing international demand for wheat through the global pandemic,” said Tim Heney, Chief Executive Officer at the Port of Thunder Bay. “We anticipate strong grain shipments in fall with Canadian farmers preparing to harvest one of the Top 5 largest crops in history.”

Overall, year-to-date cargo shipments for the Port of Thunder Bay have topped 4.7 million metric tons, about 17 per cent above last year’s tonnage at this time of the shipping season.