The Port of Churchill shipped 656,298 tonnes of grain this year, the second-highest tonnage ever.
“The goal remains handling a million tonnes,” said Mike Ogborn executive vice-president of OmniTRAX Canada, which owns the port and the railway that serves it. “And we’re moving towards that. This has been a good year and we want to continue the momentum towards that.”
Wheat and durum exported by the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) amounted to 600,000 tonnes, up from the 529,000 tonnes of wheat shipped last year. The record was 729,000 tonnes set in 1977.
For the first time in three years Churchill handled non-board crops, moving 43,000 tonnes of canola and 12,000 tonnes of human grade peas. (For competitive reasons Ogborn declined to name the shipper or the destination.)
“2010 was an exceptional year for Churchill, and that’s good news for farmers,” CWB president and CEO Ian White said in a news release. “Exporting Prairie wheat through Churchill saves farmers money through reduced transportation costs.”
Grain shipped through the port is drawn primarily from northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba. The CWB’s Churchill Storage Program pays farmers in these regions to store grain for delivery through the northern port. The Churchill season begins well before new crop is harvested each summer and relies on grain stored from the prior year.
In addition to grain, Churchill also handles a wide ar ray of suppl ies shipped by barge to destinations in Nunavut, ranging from fuel and vehicles to bui lding supplies.
This year, two cruise ships docked at Churchill as well as
a Canadian Coast Guard vessel, Ogborn said.
To encourage greater use of the port, its infrastructure will be expanded this winter and next spring. Work includes upgrading the capacity to load fuel on vessels heading north, expanding grain storage and improving the port’s ability to handle containers.
If predictions of further global warming prove accurate, Churchill is certain to do more business in the future, Ogborn said. Ice is leaving Hudson Bay earlier in the spring and returning later in the fall.
“We’ve already seen the effects of that,” he said. “In 2009, a commercial vessel made it through the northwest passage and it was ice free (during the summer). So we see in upcoming years that trade route opening and being a potential for additional business for the Port of Churchill.”
Churchill is closer to ports in Europe, the Mediterranean, Middle East and Africa than Thunder Bay. With an ice-free northwest passage, Churchill could also compete to serve Asian destinations, Ogborn said.
While warmer weather is good for the port, it creates problems for the railway that serves it, some of which is built on permafrost.
“It presents new challenges but we’re going to have to deal with those challenges,” he said.
In all, 22 ships loaded grain at Churchill starting July 29 when the Federal Danube arrived to take on durum bound for Europe.
The last ship to load, the Nikator, left the port Nov. 2 with 26,000 tonnes of spring wheat headed for West Africa.
wheatthroughChurchill savesfarmersmoney throughreduced transportationcosts.”
– ian whi te