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Grain declines and general cargo surges at Port of Thunder Bay

The Port of Thunder Bay handled lower tonnages in August, with grain shipments dropping to a three-year low for the month.  Year-to-date grain shipments of 4 million tonnes are now 1 million metric tonnes (MT) lower than last year’s 25-year high volume, marking a return to normal volumes.  Despite the drop in cargo tonnage, there were notable highlights around the Port during the month.  

Keefer Terminal handled its largest shipment to date of European steel rail.  Steel imports at Keefer began six years ago, enabling the Western Canadian construction industry to access European-manufactured rail and structural steel via the Seaway.  Steel cargo volumes at Keefer will double this year over last, signalling strong construction demand in the West.

Year-to-date general cargo at Keefer at the end of August  exceeded 22,000 tonnes versus 12,000 tonnes. Total cargo amounted to 4.6 million tonnes versus 5.6 million tonnes.

Bulk potash exports continue to rebound, with year-to-date volumes now above average.  Thunder Bay is the only potash export port on the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Seaway System.

A rare inbound grain cargo was delivered to Richardson’s Current River elevator in August.  The shipment of 12,000 MT of wheat originated from Richardson’s Hamilton terminal and is destined for Manitoba feed lots, providing cattle feed to drought- and heat-stricken farms.  

Thunder Bay elevators load out 8 million MT of grain annually, but records of inbound shipments are non-existent.  The shipment demonstrates the adaptability of the Seaway System to efficiently meet unique customer needs.

Grain production analysts are predicting significant reductions in production on the Prairies due to extreme heat, drought, and grasshopper damage.  This will likely impact port tonnage through the second half of the season, when cargo volumes are typically driven by harvesting activity.  (Photo by Gene Onchulenko)