The Canadian Wheat Board this year shipped its second-highest volume of wheat in 32 years through the Port of Churchill, Manitoba, the grain marketer said Oct. 29.
The board shipped 529,000 tonnes of wheat and durum through the northern Canadian port, up from 425,000 tonnes a year earlier, and the second-highest tonnage since 1977.
The higher shipments were due to a big 2008-09 crop and a determined effort by the wheat board to use the port more, said David Przednowek, the CWB’s senior manager of ocean freight and terminal operations.
Shipping via Churchill is less costly than through other ports because of its proximity to Prairie growing regions in the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and because the CWB can avoid charges for using the St. Lawrence Seaway, he said.
The seaway, which connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, is the second-largest export route for Canadian wheat after the combined ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, on the Pacific Coast.
The owners of ships were more willing to use the remote Churchill port because of weak market conditions in the ocean freight industry, Przednowek said.
Global warming could extend the shipping season by reducing pack ice in the region, said Mike Ogborn, managing director of Omnitrax Canada, which operates the Port of Churchill. That could open up the Northwest Passage sea route through the Arctic Ocean connecting the Pacific and the Atlantic, and make Churchill a more attractive port for shipping to Russia, he said.
Wheat accounts for almost all commodities and goods exported through the Port of Churchill, but Omnitrax is talking with gold, diamond and uranium miners about using the facility, Ogborn said.
Most of the companies are interested in shipping equipment and supplies from Western Canada through Churchill to mining sites in the northern Nunavut territory, he said. Gold miner Agnico-Eagle used the port this year.
Western Canada’s wheat moves on Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway rail lines to The Pas, Manitoba, where Port of Churchill’s sister company, Hudson Bay Railway, moves it to the deepwater seaport.
The wheat board shipped wheat from Churchill to Africa, Europe, Mexico and Brazil this year.
The port did not import any goods.